Welcome to our first JAAM tea party! We’re so glad you’re here. Grab your favorite treats and beverages, and join us as we chat about writing inspiration.
What inspires you in general?
It depends on my mood, but I can usually get inspired from just about anything. Most of the time, I start to feel really inspired to write new pieces when I find a song that seems to match a character or a vibe I want to create really well. Like, I’ve listened to one song on repeat while writing 50,000 words. Also books and movies have always inspired me. I love seeing tropes done well, or done in unexpected ways, and then that inspires me to rethink the tropes in my own writing as well. And, of course, the biggest inspirations are Apple and Pineapple! We’ve been friends for forever and writing together for a long time. I’ve read so many (but also never enough) of their works, and it’s so good I can’t help but be inspired in the face of so much talent! We exchange ideas and encourage each other, which has created a wonderful environment for writing and makes finding inspiration much easier.
In general, I can find inspiration anywhere! Usually, music or other media, like movies or tv inspire me the most. I listen to music a lot while I’m working and I binge watch tv when I can, and I love movies, even if I feel like I can never watch them enough. I also don’t read enough, but books and other arts inspire me as well.
Sometimes, I’ll see or experience something so poignant that I let myself stew in that feeling and then I’ll later try to capture it in writing, at some point.
Everything! Too many things, probably! I’ve got maybe a million pictures saved? Songs organized into playlists, news articles that make me cry, fan-edits of my favorite dramas and anime, family shenanigans, books I can’t help but go back to, movie fight scenes that make me feel powerful, a very extensive list of tropes, and way, way too many tabs open. I’m also notorious for getting caught in research loops.
Do you have a specific writer or book that inspired you to want to write?
Honestly the list is too long! I grew up on Jane Austen, Rick Riordan, Shakespeare, Tamora Pierce, the Brontës, and any book with at least one awesome female character. I think part of the reason I started writing was because I was an imaginative kid who liked to insert herself into every story. And, of course, I was too brilliant to make the same mistakes that the characters did, so I’d have to rewrite the book in my head. Eventually, I started just writing down my own ideas, and the writing began from there.
Honestly? I can’t think of a specific book or writer that made me think “this is what I want to do.” I grew up reading a lot more than I can even remember, and there are books I barely remember that haunt me from my childhood. Avi is one of the first favorite authors I remember having. Maybe I should credit those childhood books more than I do, but my go-to inspirational books are probably To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, and 1984.
My a-ha moment really came in high school in an English class when I realized I was really pretty good at writing papers and analyzing literature and that I really enjoyed it. I realized the power of words and how fun it was to craft papers and that I could express myself that way.
Actually, it might have been fanfiction! I grew up loving stories in any form I could get my hands on—books, cartoons, music, comics, video games, Barbies—and I’ve always loved writing. Fanfiction was the first time I wrote something that wasn’t for school, though. That’s when I realized how much I enjoy it and started thinking about it as a possible career. Plus, there are so many fanfic authors who I look up to and so many brilliant stories I will never be over. I could gush about fanfiction forever.
Also, fun fact: it’s how Raspberry and I started writing together back in high school!
Where do you look for inspiration when you’re feeling drained/have art block?
Down the YouTube/Instagram Rabbit Hole! It’s terrible to say (but totally true), but I’m not great at finding inspiration when I’m drained. So I just distract myself with randomness until the Writing Muse hunts me down and smacks me upside the head and tells me to get back to work!
I found that trying to power through writer’s block is effective sometimes. If I’m just feeling lazy, I can usually bribe myself to write with some pizza and Twizzlers. Once I start writing, I can usually overpower the laziness and get back into the zone. But if I’m just plain overworked, I try not to push myself (I’m bad at that, though). I try to unplug, step away, and rest. I’ll listen to some music, work on some crocheting, and become a couch potato until inspiration hits again. That’s usually a sign that I’m recharged enough to get back to work without burning out.
It depends on what kind of inspiration I’m looking for. If I’m out of ideas, I walk the path that “you have to input to output.” I’ll watch or read good media. I need something new and fresh in my mind to stir up ideas and kickstart my brain.
If I’m working on an idea and I’m kind of stuck, I usually have to backtrack. What’s keeping me from progressing? It usually isn’t a lack of inspiration as much as it is a problem I’m just not seeing. I have to take a step back and look at it again. Maybe change the angle I was going for, maybe do some research. I’m stuck for a reason, I just have to find out what that reason is and a way to solve it.
Oh yes, the pit of despair. I usually doubt my ability to write when I get to this point. Like, I’ll second guess myself so much that I forget what a sentence is even supposed to look like. Words go together how?
One of the things that really helps me is reading. I’ll find a book I love, or even just a passage from an author I really like, and study the way it strings words together. My brain kind of goes, “Oh, that’s how it’s done—okay, okay, yeah.” Then, I’ll read over what I have for the project I’m stuck on to refamiliarize myself with that story’s tone and style before diving back in.
If that doesn’t work, there’s also a chance I might need to sleep. And maybe drink water.
How do you keep yourself inspired to continue working on something?
I tell Apple and Pineapple I’m working on a project! Then they won’t let me stop working until the project is finished. No, seriously, we’ll have random prompts sometimes for writing exercises, and I’ll create random characters, and then it’s weeks of messages telling me those characters need a full-length piece. Maybe that’s why I have so many WIPs at the same time…
Also, I feel bad creating characters and then abandoning them, so guilt is another strong motivator! Even if I need to take a step back on a project, I try to never “get rid of” it completely. Plus, I have so many WIPs that I could just rotate between them, working on whichever genre is cooperating with my scatterbrain most at the time.
I just want to. Ha ha. It sounds simple but it isn’t. It’s so easy to give up and not want to do it, but I think I’d write no matter what. I just want to. I enjoy the process of it, and that’s the core of my inspiration and motivation to write in general.
There are some days where I just can’t write. I want to so badly but I can’t—I’ll just sit at the computer in front of the screen and nothing will come. I don’t worry about it too much. I know that I’ll come back to work on it soon, even if it isn’t right that second. I probably just need to rest or something. Avoiding burnout is paramount to my process.
Haha. Hahaha. Hahahahahaha. I am bad at this. Raspberry and Pineapple are very kind, very patient humans, let me tell you. They’ve talked me down from changing my name and pursuing a career as a garden gnome. More than once. But after seeing Pineapple’s incredible art for The Faery Bargain, I have to finish it. I can’t not finish it. That’s the law now.
I also love writing sprint live streams and work dates with my best friend! Just surrounding myself with people that are dreaming the same dream—seeing all the work they put in and reading all of the amazing things they write—makes me want to keep growing and learning and writing right along with them.
Also, my sister threatens me.
What’s inspired your JAAM Project?
One of the writing exercises we did involved monsters, I think, and that’s where Gran came from. Then, I loved her story too much that I had to make a mini-series, or full-length series, about her. Plus, I grew up loving mythology, so I’m really excited to create a world that mixes mythological creatures with our world. I’ve been researching a lot of different creatures, so that’s helped inspire me to create this world where fantasy and reality are collided. But mostly, I needed a sassy Gran in my life.
Oh, it all started randomly when my brother was streaming games with some friends. He always is like “Maggie, write this,” and so he just kept giving me prompts every time he streamed. And I wrote them. It just kept going like this, and I kept writing them, and it continues to go like that, ha ha.
Raspberry and Pineapple! We started sending each other trope-based writing prompts, and Pineapple sent one about “sacrifice” that inspired The Faery Bargain. When I first approached the prompt, I knew I wanted to go with some type of magical exchange for the sacrifice part, and faeries fit the bill perfectly. I also knew I wanted family to play a big part in it. The original piece was only about 1,300 words, but once I realized there was so much potential for some of my favorite tropes, I decided to expand it and make it my JAAM project. I also couldn’t pass up the chance to tie in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It was wonderful having tea with you!
We would love to know your answers to these questions, too. If you’d like, feel free to share them with us below!