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Finding inspiration

Copyright C. Lindsay 2020.


Where do get ideas on what to write? From anything you've read, heard, watched, observed...basically anywhere. The idea is to 'steal and change'. West Side Story is an appropriation (ahem, rip off) of Romeo and Juliet and Ten Things I Hate About You is Taming of the Shrew. If other people can steal and change then so can you, the important thing is what you you do with the idea you have found worthy of stealing. I should point out that this is NOT plagiarism as long as you don't copy the original idea completely. If you 'steal and CHANGE' then you get to call it 'inspiration'!


The piece is a combination of two songs, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac and The Rose by Bette Midler.

Landslide begins with the verse “I took his love…I climbed a mountain and I turned around…till the landslide brought me down’. The chorus of the song states ‘I’ve been afraid of changing coz I’ve built my life around you’.  I hope you can see this influence in the first half of the story. The Rose refers to love as a river that drowns and a razor that cuts, but also as the a seed that grows into a flower. I hope you can see how this imagery has been used in the end of this piece.


A Seed Cast on Stony Ground


He was the first to reach for me; I took his hand and soared towards peaks so high that I never would have believed existed. I expected my own space at the top, next to him, but he was determined to keep the peak for himself.  With a swipe of the back of his hand he started an avalanche that cut me, broke me, smothered me, crushed me.

On the train people would try not to stare, but I knew they knew. From beneath rock bottom I could hear them saying to each other, “What an arsehole”, “She doesn’t have to put up with this”, “She needs help”. They would nod to each other, grimace and get on with their own lives. 

From beneath rock bottom I was dimly aware of the seasons. I heard children playing in the sun and I saw the blue sky, but I wore long sleeves all year round, and hid behind dark glasses, even when there weren’t any bruises. 

At length I realised the avalanche had torn my hand from his grip, and beneath rock bottom I began to put down roots, gathering the earth around me. Breaking through I didn’t soar, but I grew, stretching slowly, ever so slowly, in all directions, but mostly up and up. One day I’ll reach higher than the peak he denied me, and holding the gentle hand of my child we will share the view.


What makes this work as an 'original' text is that it has been taken from TWO sources, making it much less likely that anybody would ever be able to identify the original/inspirational text. But more importantly, it has been 'moved' to a new context, which is what I mean by 'change'; neither of these songs are specifically about domestic violence, but their imagery works perfectly with this idea. What makes this change possible is that the two texts I was inspired by are rich in techniques. As I will explain below.


What to look for in an 'inspirational text'?

  • A strong character/persona: In Landslide the persona built her life around a man until a 'landslide' brought her down. Clearly the relationship did not go well. This is a plot that could be the basis of a story because we feel like we know this person, and if you know them you can write about them. In The Rose the persona has had a terrible experience of love which is reflected in the metaphor 'love is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed', this is a feeling that you can give to the persona in your story. Just change the language like this: 'Your love was a knife that cut me to the soul' and you have created an 'original' piece.
  • A lot of techniques: Both these songs have lots of metaphors and imagery. It is impossible to apply 'steal and change' to a soppy 1950s 'I love you, your eyes are blue' love song. While there is a persona and a feeling in it the song itself is not rich enough in language to be of any use to you. (This becomes tremendously important when you have to write a reflection on your creative piece explaining your authorial choices. By applying 'steal and change' you have made plenty of choices that will be useful in your reflection.) 

All of this is why it is so important to read and watch CRITICALLY. Always be on the lookout for interesting characters/personas in language rich texts that you can be inspired by. Not only will this help you with your writing, but it will make you a better and more engaged reader/viewer as well. 


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