I just returned from Yellowstone National Park, where geysers shoot steam into the sky, caps of snow still cling to mountain peaks, and elk, bear, and bison roam. Standing at Inspiration Point and looking out over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, I was awed by the beauty but lacked adequate words to describe it. Someday I may try to do justice to the magnificence of the park, but right now, I feel humbled and inept and I’ll leave the descriptions to poets.
Even though I haven’t returned writing eloquent descriptions of Yellowstone, the trip was beneficial for me as an author. Travel always gives me new material and sparks new ideas. Airports are a wonderful place to observe people and find interesting characters.
On a previous trip, I watched a young Latino woman wearing a stylish, hot pink suit race through the terminal. I wondered why she was running. What had caused her to be late: an argument with her husband, a trip to the emergency room with a child, or a six-car pileup on the expressway? Was she hurrying to keep a business appointment or a rendezvous with a lover? That woman was the seed of an idea that germinated and grew into my fourth book, Beyond Paradise.
A couple years later, I bumped into an old friend during a long layover in Atlanta. We chatted about former co-workers, and one poignant story inspired the plot and characters of River of Fear. One of my future books may star a proud, but limping, soldier I saw last Saturday.
When I’m flying, I see cloud tops or rain from the window of a jumbo jet and ponder the weather’s power, fickleness, and potential cruelty. Looking below, the tiny houses make me wonder who’s inside: a lonely old woman, a happy family, a cat burglar? I see cars straining to climb winding mountain roads or bumping along dusty paths in the badlands and ask where the driver is going. Why is it important he get there? And what would happen to the people inside if their vehicle broke down in that seemingly desolate land?
Every writer nurtures their muse in their own unique way. Some jog or do yoga. Some cook or soak in a lilac scented bath. Some chop wood or swing a golf club. I watch people and observe life, and travel is my wellspring of inspiration.
If you’re a writer, what inspires you?