I've been having a delightful twitter conversation lately about my writing process. One of the questions I was asked was where I found my inspiration. I told her that I find it everywhere.
Inspiration isn't something that you can force, but rather something you observe about the world around you. The whole world is filled with ideas (Hollywood as a notable exception, especially lately). Every single thing around us has a story and those stories are usually the children of other stories.
As an example, I pointed out that even the table I'm writing on has a story. Who built it? What was that person's life like? Was their significant other cheating on them? Do they even have a significant other? How did he/she get to the point of building dining room tables? What motivates them in their daily life? Everything is connected, and every connection can be inspiration for a new story.
I'll grant you, some of those stories are more boring than others (again, I'm looking at you Hollywood), but, that's the real task of a writer - take those uninspired stories and turn them into high drama, or at least something compelling that will engage a reader. What you bring to it as a writer is what will make that story compelling.
An idea is little more than a lump of clay. The real beauty is in the skill of a writer carving away the extras and creating the sculpture that a writer sees in his mind's eye. The real test is bringing that idea to fruition on the page.
For a long time, I was unable to understand how people who come up with an idea for a story or novel wouldn't just write it (so long as they had a decent grasp of writing and grammar). Now, I've begun to understand it's similar to how I see a picture in my mind's eye... I have no way of actually painting that picture - I have zero artistic talent and my hands won't corporate with what I saw in my head. I imagine that's what it's like for someone who doesn't write their book.
Discipline is another issue brought up, and something every writer struggles with on a daily basis. I told her that so long as I write something for the day, I feel accomplished. Sometimes I can write for hours on end, and have thousands of words accomplished, and other days, I struggle to get out a few sentences. I don't believe in anything so silly as being unable to force the muse - that's just writer talk to seem talented and mysterious and an excuse to not write anything for the day. The most successful writers in the world treat it just as it is - a job. Michael Crichton was known for his marathon writing sessions lasting 14 hours a day, Stephen King is another great who spends his day writing, whether it's good, bad or indifferent, he's still there, plunking away on the keyboard.
It's that lesson that I take away every day when I think about being a writer. If I write, I'm a writer. When I don't, then I'm no different than any other loser who sits on the couch and watches TV all day. I'd much rather be a writer.