The following interview was originally published by Helium.com.
Ever since I started a blog, people have asked me where I find my inspiration. My main source of inspiration comes from real life experiences, which is why the vast majority of my writing is non-fiction. In 2011, I wrote a list of 80 Journal Writing Prompts, which was in response to the repetitive emails asking me for advice for inspiration. The journal writing prompts were posted in April of 2011, and quickly became the most visited post on my blog, and after going viral, received an average of 20,000 visits per day for several months thereafter.
Ever since I started a blog, people have asked me where I find my inspiration. My main source of inspiration comes from real life experiences, which is why the vast majority of my writing is non-fiction. In 2011, I wrote a list of 80 Journal Writing Prompts, which was in response to the repetitive emails asking me for advice for inspiration. The journal writing prompts were posted in April of 2011, and quickly became the most visited post on my blog, and after going viral, received an average of 20,000 visits per day for several months thereafter. I knew I had stumbled upon an idea, if even accidentally, that deserved greater attention, so I continued to add to the original list of 80, eventually expanding it to a total of 130 journaling prompts. What surprised me the most was that instead of people using them for writing in their personal, private journals, they instead used them to help spark writing ideas that covered every genre of writing. People began to post the list on their own blogs, along with proper attribution, and a handful of people even created entire blogs using each prompt to inspire each subsequent blog post, respectively.
I myself have used the journal writing prompts as a source of inspiration several times when I had no idea what I was going to write about. Perhaps the greatest gift that I could have ever received from posting the writing prompts on my blog was having them answered by my father, who, sadly passed away earlier this year. His answers, honest and from the heart, I will cherish forever.
Gaining inspiration from ones life experiences, although uncommon and somewhat abstract, is nothing new. Anyone who has ever attended school in the United States has almost surely read the novels of Mark Twain. A little known fact about Mark Twain is that he didn’t just write fiction novels about characters he created simply based upon his overwhelming imagination. He drew a lot of his ideas for his fictional adventures based on events and experiences of his own life.
Perhaps one of the greatest moments in my early writing career was being invited to view Mark Twain’s original handwritten manuscripts in person. One of the greatest lessons I learned from that once in a lifetime experience was that taking notes on whatever matters to someone, or their writing for that matter, is vitally important. Mark Twain traveled most of his adult life and carried with him a series of small bound notebooks.
I am borderline obsessed with Moleskine notebooks, and I carry one with me whenever possible. I have a habit of taking copious amounts of notes about my daily life, especially notable experiences both at work, where I am an EMT and Firefighter, and in my own, personal life. Keeping detailed notes is crucial to my second career as a writer, and I suggest that anybody who is serious about writing should start keeping a writers notebook. Some will suggest that you keep a writing notebook for your work, a second notebook for your written prose, and perhaps even a third one for your personal diary or journal.
Outside of work, I have a habit of misplacing things. At work, everything has to be in its place, clean, and in working order at all times. In my personal life, it is often quite the opposite, so I keep all of these written notes in one single notebook. The decision to keep one notebook or a myriad of several, separate notebooks, is a decision that must be made by the writer themselves.
By the way, I cover my writing notebook with bright yellow reflective tape to grantee that when I misplace it from time to time, it can be found, quickly and easily, without much effort.
My profession has allowed me to move to many different places, and have a multitude of different experiences that I might not have ever been able to experience if I had chosen a different career path.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in writing and journalism, such as Charles Kuralt and Allen Ginsberg. Although writing can be somewhat challenging at times, and getting paid for ones writing, like any art form, is often difficult, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thomas Slatin started writing and taking photographs at a very young age. He finds most of his inspiration in places and in ways that often go unnoticed. His specialty is photographing abandoned places and he writes non-fiction about his life and his seemingly larger-than-life experiences, which highlight the often overlooked facets of the human condition. He has worked as an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter since the young age 18, yet his true passion lies within his creative pursuits and sharing his many stories and photographs through his blog, TomSlatin.com.