Ahead of his one-day workshop, we sat down with Mark O’Flynn, author of The Last Days of Ava Langdon and The Forgotten World, to chat about how he finds inspiration when writing.
1) What’s one thing you do when you need inspiration?
Inspiration is such a loaded word. I once heard it said that inspiration was what happened after you start work. Nevertheless, if I am in the middle of a project I find going for a walk will help to solve specific problems, or give me a specific line I was fumbling for. Walking gets you out of a conscious way of considering a particular issue and allows a lateral solution to somehow percolate to the surface. Plus all the other health-giving benefits!
2) What have you read that’s inspired you lately?
Two things: I really enjoyed Graham Swift’s beautiful novella Mothering Sunday. Simple storytelling which captures a lovely moment in time. Also Joan London’s The Golden Age, which is also deceptively simple yet gives full depth to each character. What you might expect to be pretty miserable subject matter turns out to be quite uplifting.
3) What is one piece of advice you have for people who are having trouble finding inspiration?
Inspiration. Don’t look for it. That is, don’t consciously hunt it out like Elmer Fudd, but have your receptive antenna attuned for when an idea pokes its head out from behind the bushes. A pencil and a bit of paper to capture it also comes in handy. Read widely. There’s no telling when a line from some other source, no matter how obscure, will spark an idea in one’s own head. I have even been inspired by the way someone else’s poem has been set out on the page. I also find, in the first instance, once you see a spark, to write fast. It will be a mess but don’t think about it. The thinking comes later. Inspiration is a private and subjective thing that often doesn’t make a lot of sense to other people.