Books: Inspirations Novelist and Journalist James Hamilton-Paterson
Saturday 03 October 1998
Those apart, I find most fertile the constant little trances induced by a passing scent, the nape of a neck glimpsed, an overheard snatch of conversation, the feel of poking a finger into the skin of congealed custard. Such details often provide the raw beginnings of things. They will probably never wind up in print as their literal selves, however. What counts is the creative attention they focus, like Proust's madeleines. Given the right mood they can set in train all sorts of productive fantasy.
As for that mood itself, like many people I find that inspiration can be encouraged by a daily minimum of basic habits, supplemented by silence.
I like a brief, early start at the piano to get hand and eye co-ordinated; quantities of Brahmsian coffee of carcinogenic strength; and a lyrical workout with Wallace Stevens's Collected Poems which I keep beside the lavatory.
Thereafter, I can usually rely on the exhilaration of the blank page, which I find the most inspiring thing of all. If things are going really badly one may be reduced to what Sylvia Plath described as "The long wait for the angel/ For that rare, random descent".
But it does have to be my own meagre angel, unfortunately; no-one else's masterpiece will do. Such are the tricks of those who make their own luck.
James Hamilton-Paterson's new book is `America's Boy: the Marcoses and the Philippines', published by Granta at pounds 20
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
Interstellar: What we know about Christopher Nolan's new film so far
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth sent home in double firing
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Benedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours: 'I probably shouldn't be saying this'
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'