In my life, I’ve found that inspiration comes in many guises. Sometimes I come upon them, but more often they found me. Here are ten things that have influenced who I am today.

The Harry Potter books may seem like an unlikely source of inspiration for an adult. It’s a children’s book, after all. I began to read it out of curiosity. The world of Hogwarts fascinated me. I read every book and listened to every audiobook available. The Potter books reignited my dormant love of reading. I’d been busy establishing a career and forgotten the satisfaction of slowing down and losing myself in different worlds. Thanks, Harry!

Unable to bear the wait for The Order of the Phoenix, I began searching out other stories. I found fan fiction and it found me. I became a reader and, soon after, a prolific writer. Through fanfiction and interaction with fans, I discovered that creative writing was something I truly enjoyed. It became a hobby and something that has seen me through many highs and lows.

Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon was the first dystopian book I ever read. It’s one of the genre’s best. It inspired me to envision my own apocalyptic world and write a story about it. My creative writing hobby became more serious. I read books on writing and practiced techniques on my bits of fanfiction. I began to write my original story little by little. In 2015, I published my first original work, Conway 6-7.

Books weren’t my only sources of unexpected inspiration. My first professional editor Cate believed in me. She pushed me to make my first novel better and for me to improve my weak points. It was gentle prodding but firm. With her encouragement, I got the nerve to publish the book. It’s never easy to present your creation to the world whether that is a book, a blog post, a song, or a work of art. Let’s appreciate those in our lives who give us a little push when we need it.

Creative writing on a blank canvas

Two Mac apps sparked an interest in graphics. My sketching ability is on par with stick figures and doodles during long meetings. Sandvox made it possible for me to build an early website for my fanfiction stories. It was enjoyed by me and my readers.

Sadly, Sandvox is no longer being developed. The second app Acorn is a graphics app that I used to create art and images for the site. As powerful as Photoshop but far less intimidating, this app allowed me to increase my skills little by little. Acorn remains my go-to graphic app today.

High school can be an uncomfortable and uncertain time for many people. I was a misfit and didn’t really feel that anyone understood me. I was fortunate to have had a teacher who influenced me to be more confident and convinced me that being me wasn’t so bad. Miss Olsen was my English teacher.

During a presentation, I dressed up in a ballgown to illustrate a theme in a book by Henry James. I’m a shirt and jeans person, a total nerd. It was all shocking looks and dropped jaws when I walked in.

After my presentation, there was silence for a few seconds. Then I heard clapping. It was Miss Olsen standing up and beaming at me. She completely understood that I was illustrating by my person the book’s theme of seeing beyond the surface to the person underneath. It was a huge risk to take and could have been humiliating. It was actually liberating. When I feel nervous, I just remember that presentation. My anxiety diminishes and my confidence is buoyed again.

Science fiction was my first genre love but fantasy is a close second. No, it wasn’t Tolkien that roused my interest in fantasy. I devoured the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. The series centered around a group of college students who find themselves in an alternate magical world and must seek a way back home. The characters and the worldbuilding had my complete attention. Recently, I’ve begun to explore the litRPG genre and write an original story in a fantasy game

So, I’ve been inspired by books, apps, people, and writing itself, what’s next? Computer games. One game, in particular, caused me many hours of lost sleep. This was an 80’s game called Wasteland. In the game, the player creates a group of four Rangers who must set out into a world left ravaged by a nuclear war.

It didn’t have anywhere near the level of graphics or animation we have today. What it did have was dynamic storytelling with many branches and quests, voice acting that supported the edgy, dystopian theme, and a combat system that was simple yet exciting. I was consumed with discovering every quest and experiencing all the different possible endings. I realize now that the game stoked my interest in and preference for complex ensemble storytelling over impressive visuals.

My last source of motivation is a televised competition reality show called “The Great British Bake Off”. A dozen amateur bakers are selected to enter a competition under a big white tent on the grounds of an English manor house. There are 8 to 10 episodes. In each one, the bakers create the signature dish, deal with a difficult technical challenge and show off their skills with a showstopper. One baker is eliminated in each episode.

It sounds like all other shows of its ilk, doesn’t it? Yes, there are similarities. But on Bake Off you see change happening in front of you. You see the triumphs, disappointments, epiphanies, and dreams realized. Many of the winners have launched their own businesses, become baking teachers presenters, created entertaining YouTube and television shows and, of course, published cookbooks.

Spread your wings and fly

What I like about it is watching the changes among the contestants during and after the show. It’s real-life reinvention and growth.

The show also has an undocumented effect on my anxiety and blood pressure. I always feel calm and amused watching the show. They need to bottle this quality and distribute it worldwide. I’ve heard that another season is being filmed. Hurray! It’s needed now more than ever.

There you have my list of 10 inspirations. I was surprised that most were related to my writing. As I get older, creative writing has taken on more and more importance. My list reflects the changes over the years. Thanks for reading!

What thing, event, or place has impacted your life in small and big ways and made it better? Don’t be shy. Share in the comments below.