TOP 5 EARLY CREATIVE INSPIRATIONS
1. The Neverending StoryThe Neverending Story is a fantastic children’s novel written by Michael Ende in 1979, but like many, I was first exposed to its dark, yet inspiring story through the 1980’s film adaption. I have a very early memory finding myself watching it during a late movie night with my cousins at a family gathering and the odd mixture of awe and terror it invoked captivated me to the point that I could not turn away. I was struck with wonder as the young warrior Atreyu crossed magnificent landscapes and flew across the world on the back of a luck dragon, but also horrified as his loyal steed sank to his death in a swamp or while the villain, an all-consuming black cloud called The Nothing, swallowed the rest of his friends. And of course, anyone that watched the film as a child doubtless shares my nightmares of the massive, green-eyed wolf who stalked him throughout the movie. The Neverending Story is one of my earliest memories of experiencing great emotional impact from a tale of any kind and it affected me deeply for years to come.
2. Final FantasyFast-forward to early elementary school. Up to this point, my video game experiences were limited to what little I could play at friends’ houses…until my siblings and I managed to save just enough for the newest, sleekest, gaming machine on the market: A Super Nintendo. Coming fresh from Mario Brothers and Tetris, my mind was blown when my older brothers excitedly brought home a game with a striking red cover featuring a gem-encrusted sword running through the title. Final Fantasy II. Far too complicated and text-heavy for me to play myself, I pulled up a chair and watched as they plowed through the epic fantasy storyline night after night. It was a new concept for me (and gaming culture at the time) for a video game to have such a grand tale to tell, such a huge world to explore, and such deep and engrossing characters. I watched as these pixelated heroes dealt with guilt, grief, and war as they sacrificed their lives for the fate of the universe, sword in hand. In the ensuing decade, I naturally played entry after entry in the long-running game series, continuing to be inspired again and again by the places they took me and the themes they tackled, most especially Final Fantasy VI and IX.
3. Star WarsUntil about 3rd grade, my whole life had revolved around fantasy and I never considered the possibility that something else could be just as good. On one fateful weekend, my mother went out of town for reasons I can’t remember. This left us kids alone with dad for a few days and as he thought about what we could do while she was out, he suggested we rent the Star Wars Trilogy and have a marathon. “What’s Star Wars?” we all asked. I could be wrong, but I think my pop may have face-palmed and fell to his knees in tears at our blasphemous inquiry. The rest is history. He brought home three VHS tapes from the video store (yes, those existed once), each cover bearing a hand-painted depiction of spaceships, laser swords and hooded bears. I distinctly remember the night we watched A New Hope and not being able to sleep afterwards, imagining I was piloting the Millennium Falcon during the attack on the Death Star. By the conclusion of the trilogy I was convinced that when I grew up I would be a Jedi. Needless to say, for years to come I watched the films more times than is healthy and invested buckets of (my parents’) money into toys and merchandising, some of which I have now passed on to my own son. From that day the force ran strong in my family, and my imagination.
4. The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings6th grade. My English teacher said we needed to read a novel and write a book report and I was at a loss of what to do. It had been a while since I could tear myself away from my Gameboy to read anything major and I lazily decided to just grab something from the bookshelf in her classroom. Shuffling through her small collection, I found a book with a fat man carrying a sword being eyed by a creepy gremlin-looking creature. Below it, the title: ‘The Hobbit’. I’m not sure what drove me to pick it up, especially since it bore the awful 50th anniversary edition cover (seriously, google it and weep), but that’s what I did. I had no sooner cracked the cover than I found myself enthralled and blazed through the book. My teacher was astonished how quickly I finished it and told me there was a sequel trilogy called ‘the Lord of the Rings’ but that it may be a bit too difficult for me. I demanded she hand it over and she was right. It was heavy reading and half the time I couldn’t follow what was going on, but I loved every second of it and practically overnight, a Tolkien-nerd was born. I became obsessed, especially after learning there were animated film adaptions, and I ate those up too. The obsession continues to this day and Peter Jackson’s trilogy much, much later was a dream come true. Tolkien remains one of my biggest inspirations for writing and for life.
5. Record of Lodoss WarDuring the later years of middle school I began to be drawn to Japanese culture when I decided to take it as my required foreign language class since I didn't want to learn Spanish. I quickly became interested in the language and culture and began learning martial arts. It goes without saying that I soon stumbled onto what people were calling ‘anime’, or Japanese animated films. Bear in mind this was about 15 years ago, long before it became widely popular, and I was thus fortunate to avoid the truck loads of garbage the genre provides today. Of course, I sought out the fantasy-based features and found a 13-episode mini series called ‘The Record of Lodoss War’ which was old even at the time I found it. Hardly by choice, I watched all 15 hours over two nights after school. Never before had I seen an animation so dark; so violent and epic. I had never considered that a ‘cartoon’ could be that way. Not only was the story captivating, but the animation was impressive (for the time) and the music is still hailed as one of the best animated feature soundtracks of all time in Japan. The odd blend of familiar, yet mature fantasy and new Japanese culture I had found fired my imagination and opened up years of perusing art and illustration.
So there you have it. I could write forever on the many, many sources of inspiration throughout my life and it was hard to whittle my choices down for this list but these are the ones that jumped out in my mind first. So how about you? Take the nostalgic stroll and leave the stories of your greatest inspirations in the comments below and until next time…keep that pen moving!