I was recently listening to National Public Radio, and they had a short program where they talked to Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline, bestseller) about the inspiration for his recent publication, The Graveyard Book. He said that, about 25 years ago, when his son was 2 years old, they lived in a very tall, spindly house with no yard. His son's favorite toy was his tricycle, but he couldn't ride it around outside (there was no room) or around inside (the house was mostly stairs) - so Mr. Gaiman would often take his son across the street to play in the old churchyard there.
Watching his son play, Neil Gaiman said, he was suddenly struck by the thought, "You know, I could write a story about this ... a little boy who grows up in a graveyard. Kinda like The Jungle Book, where a little boy grows up to learn the ways of animals - it could be The Graveyard Book, where a little boy grows up to learn the ways of dead people."
And so the inspiration came.
But it all started with one image: a young boy riding his tricycle around the gravestones.
C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all started with one image he got from a dream - a fawn, in a snowy wood, carrying parcels and a snow umbrella.
So these two images - one from the author's son, one from the author's dream. Both sparked an idea that lead to a story.
(Actually, as a funny side-note, Neil Gaiman got many of his inspirations for his characters' names, and other little epitaphs, from the gravestones in the graveyards he visited while writing his book. I just might use that technique sometime ...)
Just at the very beginning of this month I had the indescribable joy of watching my baby brother, Luke, be born. Over the past month I have been too busy sucking up his few, limited weeks of newborn-ness to do anything else (those of you with babies or newborn siblings know exactly what I mean - they're only that tiny for so long).
There is not much that I can say about the experience - as aforesaid, it was indescribable - but it is not difficult to say that it was inspiring.
Who knows, as I look down at the peaceful, innocent face of my sleeping newborn brother, what inspiration might come?