(Cross-published at secondwindpub.wordpress.com)

Writing has to start somewhere.

In college I was taught to kick-start the process by free writing. The inspiration was supposed to come from the flowing gibberish I wrote and would congeal into a coherent paper eventually, or so my literature professor told me.

I was an abject failure at free writing.

I am hit by inspiration. I can’t squeeze it out of the pen if it’s not there to begin with. I don’t write nonsense hoping that it will spark a fever of writing.

My own personal muse comes from the good old what-if question. What if the world was square instead of round? What if the war to end all wars started on American soil? What if survival depended on the untouchables? What if the key to world peace was locked in an imprisoned mind? What if squirrels were actually smarter than dolphins?

The list is endless.

For me, possession is nine/tenths of the writing process. Not the kind of takeover by the ghosts of Forester or Fitzgerald, but the takeover of my own imagination. The characters in my stories come to life and I see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel.

In my mind, my characters live their experiences and adventures. As a participant in every little thing they do, I become deeply involved. Their pain is my pain.

The whole writing process is exhausting. When I get on a serious roll, I suffer the consequences, usually in the form of a writing hangover that lasts for a few miserable days.

But it’s worth it. Someone once told me that writing is birth and death with the broadest spectrum of human emotions in between. For me, this is true. I run the written gamut of feelings from fear and absurdity to anger and hilarity, sometimes within the same paragraph.

Life is such a candy shop. Inspiration is all around, waiting to be picked up. The wonderful thing about inspiration is that it is different for each of us: I see an apple where you see the beginnings of life and love; you see torn, dirty jeans where I see a struggle for world domination.

I have to be careful and keep my imagination on a short leash, else the candy bar I’m eating becomes the catalyst for the collapse of modern society or the calendar I’m looking at morphs into a countdown to apocalypse.

It starts with a single grain of sand. That’s how my inspiration takes birth. A single act, a single look, a single mistake – all have the ability to snowball into a story.

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