Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Q&A: Where do you get your inspiration to write?

Thank you, Paul Taubman, for tonight's question: "Where do you get your inspiration to write?"

I'm going to share an embarrassing anecdote that explains where I get my inspiration from (and then I  ramble on a little longer)

So, at our final Thesis session, our teacher, David,  shared a rather horrible fact with us. I can't remember the exact percentage, but it was outrageously high....but the number of students who walk out of their final thesis class and never write again. I seriously could not believe this (though I trust him, and I know he's right! And I've spoken to people since, and I see it....and it's just like...what?!). He asked a general question to the class, what was going to make us keep writing? Nobody spoke up.

(And though I use quotes, please know I don't remember the exact words....!)
David: "Jackie?"
Me: "Um....Well, I want to get my book published."
David: "Well everyone want's that, what are you going to do to keep yourself writing?"
And okay, I had been prepared for this question, so prepared. We had to write up a career plan, including the factors that will keep us from writing, and what we'll do to keep ourselves writing, and I started working on it as soon as it was assigned. But, of course, I am the least articulate person I know when put on the spot, my brain goes completely blank. To me though, the truth is, I am going to get my series published. At that moment, all I could say was how badly I wanted it, and how that alone is enough. But why do you want it so badly? Was the question.
"Well, it's a long story." I turned to Linda who has been one of my confidants and besties in the program, and she knows the story. I think David offered to explain it, but I kind of wanted to tell everyone. And then I started crying. AGHHHHHH. I don't cry in public. But I love those ladies and David. So it turned out to be okay.

So, the long story.... That's my inspiration, and the heart of this anecdote, so here it goes (and this is much more in depth than the version told to my class).

Back when I was eighteen, I was headed off to college, and I made a friend, Michelle. She was like a big sister to me, we became best friends. We wrote stories together; she would read all of my stuff and give her very honest (sometimes irritating) feedback, and I would do the same for her. She would always share her characters with me; I think she liked seeing them go through my creative writing classes and come out in various stories (which she always got to fact-check and scrutinize the plausibility, consistency, and anything else she had in mind). We literally wrote every single day. Starting at 8pm (on a normal day, sometimes all day if neither of us were busy), until we went to bed, we would write out scenes, brainstorm new ideas, gossip about characters as though they were real people, and have arguments over the stupidest things ever. It was our lives. Our plan: take our extensive story ideas, and turn them into some mega-awesome-over-dramatic-magic-filled TV show, sell it, and become famous. Haha. Right? Like that was really going to happen. One (or two) can dream.

And then just after midnight, early morning, April 5, 2009, we signed off, and planned to chat tomorrow to pick up where we left off. Little did I know, when I said 'NN' and signed off AIM, it would be the last time we would ever write, brainstorm, fight, discuss, or say 'ttyl.' In the early morning hours she suffered a severe asthma attack that caused her to pass away.

And now, I won't go into all of the details, but basically, I could not deal with losing my best friend and writing buddy of seven years. I actually, right away, picked a few of our characters, and just started writing, every night, at 8pm, to keep myself from going crazy, but that didn't last too long before I plunged into an awful funk, that lasted a very long time, and involved me not writing.

About a year or so down the line, some things happened in my life, and I had some good influences that suggested I really return back to writing our characters. So, when I was able to come back to it on my own, I decided I had to write her characters. I needed to start putting together stories with them, and one of those stories turned into a novel, which blossomed into a series, and who knows what else. But I've gotten off track.

The new plan: write these characters to honor her memory. Through their stories, her memory will live on. And those who know her characters already, should love the stories, at least, I hope I have done/will continue to do her characters justice. 

Later, in 2010, I decided to get my Master of Arts in Writing. I wanted to write this story out, I wanted to get the best possible help while doing so, and, by some freak accident, I got into the Johns Hopkins University Masters of Arts in Writing program.

When I started my first class, I thought, "God, you are way too stupid to be in this program, you will never make any friends because they're all super smart, and you should probably quit." And I might have come home from class once or twice and "cried because because I'm so dumb," haha. Turns out, some of my favorite people stemmed from that class. In fact, I met one of my major cheerleaders and writer buddies, Michelle Madow, in that class, as well as the frequently mentioned Mrs. Simoni-Wastila.

I'll write another entry later this month to gush on about why I love JHU and our program so, so much, but for now, I'll say, I gained so much, in so many facets of my life, it was worth every single penny. My book is currently going through revisions, revisions I am staying on top of, and will continue to work on until it's finished and out to agents, and then publishers, and then your hands.

So, to answer, my inspiration? Mine and Michelle's characters. And will I keep writing? You can bet on that.

Thanks for reading.


  1. What a great story that I can relate to in a very real way. I applaud you for starting again. I believe that you will succeed with such inspiration in your back pocket.

  2. I love this post! Thank you for writing about what few may reveal: Why we write! What moves us to keep writing, when few folks we know have a glimmer of why we return again and again to simply writing. I read once that every writer has a theme that informs all of our work, even when we don't recognize it. For me, the writing is an anchor, though I write historical fiction. The writing takes me to other times and places -- and deeper into myself. I wish you well with all your writing.

    1. Thank you, Beth! I wish you well with your writing too!

  3. Your story about why you write is so incredibly moving. I just hope you continue to write even when you have finished this body of work--you do have the chops!

    I write because I have to. Like eating, drinking, sleeping. It's a need for me. Peace...

    1. Thank you Linda, yours is too. I miss you....we need to plan a coffee date when you get back to catch up...!

  4. I loved your story Jacqueline! It was very moving and good for you! I know that was hard to write that but thanks so much for sharing. Good luck to you!

    1. Thank you, Kristen, for taking the time to read :)


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