In spite of the way that the evening has become fixed in my imagination, the night of July 14 2014 would not register as significant. While birthdays, inductions, and other commemorative dates are in themselves notable and I’d do nothing to cast a shadow over such things, it’s the reason why it’s keyed to a burst of creativity that is the mystery.
In terms of my city, Sydney, it was a cold night. The Canadians and Americans among by readership here would scoff at what we consider a teeth-chattering low, but I tell you, I shivered outside like everyone else I saw. To a man walking to a parking lot close to midnight, it would be cold. To an idiotic (in the very best of ways) writer with an overactive imagination, I’d stepped out of a hospital, straight into a special version of Antarctica.
Why Antarctica? Obviously, because it’s in my novel (duh)!
I stepped out of a temporary walkway of thin wooden floors and walls laden with shiny foil, into a frozen (though in reality, bereft of ice and snow and the whole freezing bit) world. I was there. There were huge floodlights above, tall buildings in some areas and new construction in others, and all the while, there was a constant buzz that could have been a generator or anti-grav engines.
In some ways, I might be going all out into creative madness to the point where it may not make sense. I think any such aspersions could be tempered by the fact this was also the first place I’d seen a live AGV in my life, and that in itself gives an otherworldly sense of visiting the future.
I’ll admit that sometimes I see my story ideas manifest in the world around me. My 2009 NaNoWriMo had an entity in it that was half-borne from nightmares, feeling something like a tangle of tree trunks and branches encased in wrought iron. While the details did differ, to physically see this sculpture, Roxy Paine’s Neuron as I walked around Circular Quay back whenever it was at the front of the MCA? It was breathtaking. In the evening light, it was there.. something I’d imagined had come into the world, yet it wasn’t the first occasion I’d had to picture its form.
Even walking home after work, I would stare at the crests of trees, imagining that my antagonist had risen before me just as it did in front of my protagonist. I channelled the slow sway and unrelenting scale into the pit of my stomach, until I felt the same drop there as he did.
Go back further, and it repeats. It’s amazing where a soundtrack, closed eyes, and a strong wind can take you. Two more examples of me losing my real place in the world and pushing an imagined one in? For a long, long time, the room at the back of my parents’ place (an extension put in when I was somewhere between five and seven years old) has always mimicked the form of stables. Take out the walls on one side, put posts in where the windows are divided, and there it is. Previously mentioned it on this post.
This one’s a bit more recent – this is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which has wood arranged like this in between the two sets of train tracks that cross it. First time I noticed, I immediately thought of the deck of a tall ship, and I picture it every time since. Last night I looked out at the terracotta roofs lit by golden sunlight and it invoked a feeling of Florence.
There’s so much around us, so much depth to the places we already are, that it’s possible to get inspiration anywhere. All you have to do is find it.