Inspiration is a bit like a two-year-old you are babysitting. You wave goodbye to the parents as they get into the car, grinning at the thought of a night of freedom from their bundle of joy. As you close the door and turn around to ask little Tommy what he wants to do, he’s gone. You hear a giggle from the next room. You follow the sound while saying ‘Tommy? Tommy?’ in your sweetest voice possible, I mean, you don’t want to scare the little blighter now, do you?
You enter the lounge. Toys are scattered across the floor. You step over a plastic fire truck and navigate a labyrinth of stuffed toys, action men and playmobil, all the while following the giggling sound to behind the arm of the faded yellow sofa. A smile crosses your face.
“Got you now!” You grin as you pounce on the sofa, looking over the arm at… a teddy bear. Its cheeks flash red as it makes a repetitive giggling sound.
Huh. That probably isn’t a good sign. You search the house up and down, kitchen, bathroom, you even look out in the garden, though it is raining and your socks absorb all the water from the patio. But no: no toddler, no Tommy. You know you’re in trouble.
You sit on the couch, giving up and sinking into a pit of despair. You curse yourself at your foolishness. Who loses a toddler really? You’ll be the laughing stock of the babysitting community, that’s for sure.
Then, slowly, the door to the lounge opens. With a raised eyebrow, you watch a small lump in power ranger pyjamas wander in and curl up on the sofa next to you. He stuffs his thumb firmly in his mouth and mumbles something which sounds like ‘bed’. He flops quite easily over your shoulder as you carry him upstairs and place him in his bedroom, pulling the cover up to his neck. As he snuggles down against his pillow, you silently congratulate yourself for being the best babysitter ever. You hear the parent’s car pulling up outside.
Now, why did I write that story? Well, I have a lot of time on my hands. Also, I was trying to metaphorically represent the fact that whenever I want inspiration, I can never seem to find it. If someone says, ‘Hey Richard! Come up with an idea for a story right now!’ you can pretty much guarantee my mind will go blank. In fact, my mind did pretty much go blank when I was sat in the cafe on my residency. I spent most of my time desperately trying to write a story about the tomato plant that I was sat underneath. But by the third attempt at writing The Tomato Plant that came alive and ate everyone only to realise it had no one to water it and died, I realised that inspiration is something that can’t be forced. You have to sit back and let it come to you.
Yesterday, while drinking a cup of tea, I came up with an idea. Inspired by my time in the cafe, it just leapt up out of nowhere. I spent a lot of time writing furiously and am now pleased to say that I have the first completed story inspired by my time at MADE. Sometimes, that little toddler of inspiration is hard to find, but if you don’t try and force it, it will eventually come back to you and you can put the whole thing to bed.