From a young age I have been compelled to write. Many things inspire my writing. I am interested in the smallest details. A fleeting comment that someone makes may be enough to spark a short story, or even a novel. A Malaysian student of mine used the phrase ‘My Beautiful England’ to describe life in the UK. Up until that point my novel about the immigrant’s experience of life in England was called ‘The Language Seekers,’ but on hearing her and other students use those words, it made sense to hinge my novel on a line that conveyed real perceptions of England.
For many years I have been both a painter and a writer. To me novels need a strong sense of imagery. An unusual button, shaped like an elephant tusk, inspired a short story of mine. Seeing an Indian man in a queue who was struggling to communicate prompted another story. I remember him, his back bent over a walnut stick, shuffling his feet and no one seeing him. It seemed he was invisible to everyone but me. I suppose I am a people watcher. I steal details and either draw them, or write them down.
Sometimes people tell me interesting tales and stories. An Asian man told me about his auntie, a thin woman who ate a box of sweets every day and never gained weight. Her family was convinced she was possessed by an Asian djinn, an Asian spirit. This had occurred because she had visited a forbidden place in India. The story stayed with me and is now shaping up into a novel.
Reading books is also a source of inspiration. I read fiction and non-fiction. I am interested in art history. Recently I discovered a woman painter who has been omitted from history. Creating a story around her has been fun and I am now writing and researching that novel.
Inspiration is a wonderful thing. But like many writers I don’t have the time to sit and wait for a spark of an idea to fire my imagination. I take writing seriously. I write every day and fit it in around my three children and a teaching job.
Sometimes I just write and write. Writing can be hard work. And when inspiration strikes I grab at it and translate images and scenes into words.
A big thank you to Michelle