What’s YOUR Inspiration?
It’s summer! Well, for many of us. And you know what that means: Pool time, beach time, and reading-books-by-the-pool-and-beach time!
But if you’re a writer with a new book coming out — mine’s Awaken, the third and final book in my Abandon trilogy, which will be out July 2 as both a hardcover and e book. Click here for chapter excerpts and extras, more of which will be added every week — summer also means book tour time.
Which means getting asked the one question that I dread more than any other:
“What’s your inspiration?”
The reason I hate this question is because I hate lying. I’d love to answer this question truthfully, like all my writer friends do, but I’ve never felt like I could.
“Music,” one of my writer friends always says in reply to this question.
“The laughter of my children!” says another.
“The sound of ocean waves as they lap against the shore,” says a third.
I like the sound of music and ocean waves, and I certainly don’t hate the sound of kids laughing.
But none of these things inspire me to write.
Here is what inspires me:
Yeah, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
When I get mad, I write.
I don’t know why. I’ve always been this way. As soon as something (or someone) pisses me off, I pick up a pen (or laptop) and start writing. (When I was a really little kid, before I could write, I’d draw to vent my rage.)
It never took much to set me off: the kids who made fun of the way I talked in school (I was in Speech and Hearing). A boy who was mean to me on the playground.
Later, a publisher who rejected one of my stories. Someone who didn’t even know me saying something nasty about me on the Internet.
Nowadays, all I have to do is think about the fact that one in four women in America have been sexually assaulted by age 18, but 97% of rapists never serve a day in jail, child pornography is still a multi billion dollar industry, and 55% of it comes from the United States – and I’m burning with rage.
The book I’m writing doesn’t have to be about the topic making me angry: I just need to be writing SOMETHING, so I can feel as if my words will be making a difference.
(And thankfully I hear from enough of you that I know they do, which is what keeps me going.)
I know I have a reputation for looking and sounding happy and cheerful all the time, and this isn’t an act: I AM happy and cheerful.
But that’s because I’ve gotten my day’s worth of rage out: through whatever book I’m working on.
But for some reason, for a long time, I felt I could never admit out loud that this is the way I work.
For one thing, anger is popularly assumed to be a destructive emotion that causes heart attacks, stroke, road rage, terrorism, and wars. Right? It hardly seemed proper for the author of The Princess Diaries to go around saying, “What inspires me? Why, unadulterated rage, that’s what. Next question?”
For another, in our society, it isn’t considered “nice” to express emotions like rage, especially in front of people who are going, “I’m inspired by my muse, a lovely fairy creature who peeps in my garden window.”
I’ll admit, I’ve always felt a bit like a freak, knowing my inspiration is so different from other authors (but still, a muse? Seriously, every time I hear an author mention her muse, I think how much I’d liked to kick that muse in the nuts).
I’ve often lied about it when asked, just to make myself sound more normal:
“Oh, definitely I’m inspired by that lady’s muse,” I’ve always told interviewers. “Next question?”
To me this sounded better than the truth, which I was sure no one would understand or sympathize with.
But then a couple of months ago I visited a new acupuncturist (I go to acupuncture a few times a year because of some nerve damage I suffered after a routine surgery. The acupuncture is the only thing that relieves the pain).
The new acupuncturist, who’d never met me before, asked me to stick out my tongue. I was surprised, since no acupuncturist had ever asked me to do this (nor has any asked me to do so since).
“I know, it’s weird,” “Dr. M” said, sheepishly. “But the Chinese believe you can tell a lot about a person’s health from their tongue.”
“Um,” I said. “OK.” I stuck out my tongue.
“Wow,” he said, looking at my tongue. “This is going to sound odd, so please forgive me, but would you describe your natural emotional state as … angry?”
I stuck my tongue back into my mouth and stared at him in astonishment. “How did you know????”
(Honestly I think I do a pretty good job of covering up my naturally angry state. No doctor has ever caught on to it before.)
That’s when Dr. M explained that he could tell from the colors on my tongue that I was suffering from an imbalance, what in Chinese medicine is described as “being like a kite flying high in the wind, only with no one holding its strings. And the wind fueling the kite is anger.”
OK, normally I’m not into this kind of stuff because it all seems suspiciously muse-y. But I couldn’t help bursting out:
“That’s me! I’m angry all the time! Oh my God, what am I going to do?”
“It’s not a bad thing at all,” the doctor said with a laugh. “Anger is one of our most powerful emotions. It’s only terrible if it’s used in a destructive way. New studies show that anger can be enormously beneficial if it’s used to inspire creativity, or motivate positive, peaceful change, the way Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Another recent study, in fact, found that people who tend to feel angry rather than happy report a generally higher feeling of well-being, while scoring higher for emotional intelligence. But they also didn’t stifle their feelings — they expressed them.”
This was the best news I’d heard in a long, long time.
“Did they express their feeling by punching their enemies in the face with brass knuckles?” I asked hopefully.
“No,” Dr. M answered, laughing. “By finding appropriate channels for their aggression. May I ask what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a writer,” I said with a sigh. “Every time I get mad, I write a book.”
“Oh,” Dr. M said, brightening. “That’s a great outlet for anger! Do a lot of people get murdered in your books?”
“Sometimes. Although there’s usually romance, too. And humor. With a dash of mystery and friendship.”
“That’s perfect,” Dr. M said. “That shows you’re working the ying and the yang — love and hate. You have to have both, you see. Your kite is fueled by anger — that’s the wind that’s keeping it aloft, and supplying your creative energy. But it’s love that holds your kite strings, and keeps you — and your kite — grounded. It’s what’s keeping you from being consumed by your anger, and makes you able to use your fire for creativity, to peacefully change the world for the better.”
“Wow,” I said. “Thank you so much, doctor. I never knew any of this before. I always thought it was wrong to get mad.”
“Anger is only wrong if it’s vented the wrong way,” Dr. M said. “Expressed in a healthy way, it’s a powerful source of motivational energy … for good! So keep getting mad … but keep it under control by holding tight to those kite strings, writing books, and getting accupuncture. And please don’t buy any brass knuckles.”
So I took his advice, and this is what came out:
I won’t be lying anymore about the source of my inspiration. I might even have sprinkled a little of Dr. M’s advice into Awaken. See if you can find where by grabbing a copy of the book on its release day July 2!
And look for more of these cool “quote cards” on my Tumblr, Things My Characters Say.
Also look for some sneak peeks and extras from Awaken NOW on the fun writing site Wattpad, which I recently joined! Follow me on Wattpad and join us on July 2nd. I’ll be running a guided reading and discussion on Awaken … and maybe anger management!
And be sure to also check out the newly redesigned Meg Cabot Message Boards, a community of readers and writing club for Meg Cabot readers (and aspiring writers) that is getting close to celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary!!! Meet plenty of other “kite-fliers” just like me, expressing our anger (in a healthy and appropriate manner)! We just launched an exciting new feature, you can now live chat with other members of the forums!
And remember … this summer? Go ahead and get mad (but keep it under control)!
You might find that amazing, inspiring things come from it.