It’s 1pm on a windy December day. Our heroine – spoilers, that’s me – has just trekked two hours into central London. The bridge was so frigid that her hands are freezing, because for some reason she decided to take her gloves out of her handbag this morning. And, at last, she is now standing before a museum.
(Actually, it’s an art gallery, but hush).
Our heroine has been planning this trip for months. Not this particular trip. This is a little bit more opportunist. But the concept of taking a day trip to London to walk round a museum in search of inspiration, that’s not new. The problem is that she’s terrified of everything, including spending money on herself, so it’s taken this long to manage it.
But! She is here. And now entering the Tate Modern, and – oh, she’s lost. Wait, no, she’s worked it out again. Why do you have to go down to go up?
Why did I pick the Tate Modern when I’m working on a period novel?
Excellent question, my friend. Obviously, the stuff in the Tate Modern has pretty much zilch to do with the 19th century. It’s all from much more recently.
But you don’t always get inspiration from things that are precisely the same as what you’re working on. In the Tate Modern, I got ideas about resistance, and thought, and the esoteric. It inspired me and gave me ideas for all sorts of things. It even gave me ideas for scenery. Check out this sculpture by Anish Kapoor, for example: it shows you upside down in its reflection.
It also gave me ideas for other things I do creatively, like my tabletop games and even the very amateurish artwork I do – in 2018 I learned to paint. I got all sorts of ideas for things whilst walking around the gallery, and I can’t wait to use some of them.
The other reason, of course, is that I’ve just always wanted to go there. Going uplifted my spirit and made me feel connected in a way I don’t often, thanks to my anxiety. I felt part of a conversation I hadn’t even known I was missing. That’s pretty invaluable for me.
After the Tate Modern, I went onto the Museum of London.
This is obviously much more appropriate to my writing. One of my aims in 2019 is to re-read and revise Oracle so that I renew my confidence in submitting it to agents.
The Museum of London was smaller than I’d expected, and it crushed quite a lot of years together whilst spending a lot of time on others. I found the pre-history section really interesting; I’ve no idea how I’m going to use it, but I definitely want to find a way.
In the period more appropriate to Oracle, I found all sorts of things that it was good just to see in the flesh, because describing them will be much easier now. Take for example this prison cell, which was much larger than I expected:
You can actually go in and walk around it, it’s awesome. I hadn’t considered that they would be wooden – fantasy prison cells are generally always stone – and I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be spacious. Well. As prison cells go.
Oh, and the most incredible thing about the Museum of London?
I went around it without my headphones on. Yes, really. I took them off before London had been founded and I did not put them back on, even when I left to go and meet my partner. No, I don’t know who I am anymore either.
All in all, this is an experiment I’m definitely going to repeat.
I have a few different places on my list that I want to go to at some point. It’s not as prohibitively expensive to get into London as I thought (we live about 2 hours outside it), but it’s enough that I won’t be doing it regularly. Which is probably for the best, because as well as I did, I think my large crowds stamina needs to recharge.
So I’m calling this a success. What about you? Where have you always wanted to go in search of inspiration?
Do me a favour. Challenge yourself to go. Give it as big a time period as you need: this month, this season, this year. Then make a plan for getting yourself there. And if you manage it, let me know how it goes!
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