We find our inspiration in different places. Some of us sit on sidewalks and people watch, some listen to music, some do writing exercises and talk with friends. I think I’ve done all three from time to time, and one of the most fruitful sources of creative inspiration for me is television. It was one of my favorite things as a kid, and it still is.
I’m always amazed at the current idea that letting kids watch TV is bad for them. I grew up pretty much physically connected to the TV – my parents didn’t hover over me every moment of every day attending to my every need because they were working, and working hard. It was good – it was how I learned to be independent and develop my own work ethic. It never stopped me from reading, from achieving academically, and it remains a huge source of inspiration for me, as well as relaxation.
Movies and TV shows (though mainly TV – I rarely find movies I enjoy any more) are fertilizer for my imagination. The only thing better is travel, but I can’t do that as often as I’d like.
I can actually feel something creative in my mind being stroked when I hear a certain line from a favorite movie or watch a favorite character, and I think my love affair with the TV screen has always influenced my use of dialogue as a writer. Every time I come across a particularly twisty Buffy phrasing or listen to how Brenda Lee Johnson’s character in The Closer is created by how she talks, (“Thank you, thank you very much,” in those sugary sweet southern tones). It reminds me how powerful finely-crafted dialogue can be, and this can kick in my urge to write more than just about anything.
I nearly died during the writer’s strike this past year, but it pushed me to watch some shows that I might not have discovered otherwise, most notably Veronica Mars, which was timely as I have been working on my first mystery novel. I watched every detective show the 70s and 80s had to offer (and also read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden), so Veronica Mars really reminded me how much I love mystery. Monk is a show I have watched for years that does the same. These characters can’t help but inspire.
I just started catching up on Burn Notice so I can catch the new season (thank you, TiVo, you have changed my life…), and I’ve had a bit of a dry spell for new ideas lately, and a day after watching several Burn Notice epis back to back, I popped out a new 10 page synopsis in 2 hours. Doesn’t matter if it sells, that would be nice, but the important part is the ideas spun off… My idea had nothing to do directly with that show, but something about it just triggered the idea factory in my brain.
So, do you have favorite TV shows? Do you think TV rots your brain, or is a great source of creative inspiration? Chat, and I’ll pick a winner to receive a signed copy of my summer Blaze anthology, What I Did on My Summer Vacation.