What Inspires You?


Frankly, some days I don’t feel particularly inspired. I just want to take a nap.*

Midsomer murders

DS Jones and DCI Barnaby, set against the backdrop of “Midsomer.” Photo courtesy of the Guardian UK.

Yet sometimes I get my best – or most harebrained — ideas at the oddest times. Standing in the shower, driving the car, in the middle of a doctor’s exam, where there’s absolutely no safe or even reasonable access to a notebook, real or virtual. Which is why I try to have a pen, pad or smartphone handy no matter where I’m at. Even if it’s to remind myself to turn off the curling irons so as to avoid setting my house on fire or, at the very least, burning the countertops. And of course there’s the middle-of-the-night brainstorm that makes sense at 3 in the afternoon, oh, maybe 5 percent of the time.

Or maybe something weird or offbeat results in ideas coming together. Recently during a particularly doldrumesque week, I decided to see about catching up with my favorite TV show, “Midsomer Murders.”** Based on the novels by British mystery writer Caroline Graham, the long-running series is set deep in the heart of rural England. I started watching the show and immediately became a fan and then around 2006, A&E and the Biography Channel abruptly pulled the plug, replacing it and several other well-produced and acted imports with “Duck Dynasty,” “Bates Motel,” and “American Hoggers.”

So out of sheer boredom and work avoidance, I went online to Amazon to see what newer episodes were available. The show, produced by ITV in the UK had been renewed for several years, although DVD technology in the mid-2000s had not yet evolved to include affordable multiregional DVRs that could play overseas disks. What popped up on my search was a dizzying array of titles at exorbitant costs. Next stop was my local online library catalogue which had nearly as large of a selection – all for free, as long as they were returned on time. And I knew that for a while I would be screwed sleep-wise – with nearly eight seasons to catch up on, I would be glued to the TV well into the night.

And indeed it was like reconnecting with an old friend. Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (actor John Nettles) was as solid, humorous and reliable as ever and his various sidekicks were still toothsome, including the most recent, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). But what started happening as I delved back into that wonderful, exquisitely realized world was for me almost as bizarre as the occurrences in fictional Midsomer County: I began to resurrect my past fantasy of going to and spending time at South Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, where the series is mostly filmed.

But here’s the thing: I need to get away for several weeks to work on LIFE DURING WARTIME: A VETERAN SON’S ADDICTION, my memoir/guidebook for families and loved one of addicts. A three-day excursion to a park in Indiana a couple of months ago to review, finish and polish the prospectus and sample chapter had proven to be extremely productive. Plus I could actually explore “Midsomer” – there are tours of and even an annual convention celebrating the hugely popular show. I hope to write my own fictional satire series set in a large retirement community in the US. While the “Villages” in Florida may seem sterile, bland and boringly American by comparison, I suspect that a hop across the pond to its bloody and eccentric distant cousin may provide some great material and ideas.

Sometimes it’s good to sit back and pick at the odd, intriguing thread. Because that’s where the greatest ideas and insights can come from. And what seemed impossible before is suddenly ripe with potential.

*While researching this blog, I came across some concrete ideas that might help jump-start inspiration.  The first, from Write to Done, consists of 31-derful suggestions that provide specific places and things to get you going again.  The second is Grammarly, which I used to grammar check this post, because, even though it’s automated, it’s “another set of eyes” that can help pinpoint problem areas and move you in the write, er, right direction.

**For those curious about this show I have provided a link to the “unofficial” site which has the most comprehensive, up-to-date information and Midsomer doings as well as details on the annual convention.

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