Writing inspiration

Inspiration in unlikely places

We’ve found potato people growing in the bottom of our cupboard. They’ve clearly been there for some time, growing stealthily and silently in the back corner of the pantry.
They’re like miniature trees, gnarled and twisted into impressive trunks and branches, from which sprout dozens of tiny potatoes.
One has his branches outstretched like a marauding tuber monster ready to attack, but maybe we misjudge him, and instead his body language is seeking embrace rather than menace.
I don’t want to throw them away, these impressive, self-contained lives that got on with the business of growth and regrowth without any other input.
The children are at their dad’s house today, so I put the potatoes on the shelf propped up against the spices to show them when they come home. Already they look like little characters to me and we name them the Tuber Brothers and wonder at their prolific miniature spud propagation.
Stories offer themselves up everywhere. From the bottom of the potato basket to the shapes of the clouds. Once on a long drive through rural Victoria I pointed out the grass-covered hills around us and explained to the kids that they were slumbering dragons, dormant during the day, but trawling the countryside for adventure after dark. The story grew and grew in the car that holiday until we had a cast of dragon characters and adventures worthy of any medieval creature.
At six the fairy at the bottom of my daughter’s wardrobe helped her to sleep and feel safe in the dark. Fairy Wendy was a part of the family for years and frequently held fairy balls under Ruby’s bed.
In a recent children’s writing class I spoke to the kids about the importance of imagination. Where was their imagination I asked? In their toes; in their veins, or maybe in their head? One seven-year-old boy described his imagination as a beautiful gliding swan that pecked him on the head when it wanted his attention. Another girl said her imagination ran like electricity through her body, and one little boy sagely remarked that the best thing about imagination was its portability. You can take it anywhere he said.
Imagination is a powerful tool for writers. It’s not just about dreaming up new lands and an array of bizarre characters, but the ability to wonder what could happen to a person and how they would react….if…
If their husband cheated on them
If their best friend died
If they placed material things above people…

From the simple act of wondering ‘what if’ comes creativity.

So when I look at these wondrous spiky creatures in my kitchen I don’t see overgrown spuds; I see a story possibility, the germ of an idea and I begin to wonder ‘what if?’.

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