There it sits, its long gray-green tentacles wrapped carefully under itself as the daizoowhoozle hunkers down on its nest. The creature, for those of you who do not know what you are looking at, is a mass of 12 to 16 ropy tentacles joined to a fat, rounded body which hangs in the center of them. These tentacles are covered with fine scales, but I would not get close enough to examine them. You see, this is a mother daizoowhoozle sitting on her clutch of eggs. They can be quite territorial when it comes to protecting their nests.
Along the top of the tentacles you will see the what looks like soft, flat green fur spotted here and there with little yellow and red flowerlets. This gives the daizoowhoozle excellent camouflage. As she settles you can see she seems almost to be just a small hillock covered with flowers. The yellow flowers, however, are sensory organs that let her see. The red ones are mouths filled with tiny, strong, sharp teeth that can gnaw through anything, even plate armor in just a few seconds.
You might be asking yourself right about now, What the hell is he going on about? The answer, strangely enough, is not the daizoowhoozle. Today’s topic is inspiration. Last week as I was sitting on Google+ catching up on the posts of the day, I saw that Quinn Murphy had posted an excerpt from his blog. The long and short of what he said was that it is easier to picture an elf then it is a daizoowhoozle. In that moment I had a clear picture in my head of a star-like, land-dwelling creature that could blend into the forest floor.
Inspiration is like that. It may be just a name or an image, but it can explode without notice across your brain. Inspiration, and to an extent, creativity is not about sitting down and saying I am going to think of something awesome. Instead it is about being prepared to recognize ideas when they happen, and learn how to trap them for later use.
The second part of the equation is easy. Just always be prepared with your favorite note taking tool. For me, my trap is my phone. I can capture a picture if I need it, or jot a quick note to myself for later. The hard part is training yourself to recognize the awesome ideas when they happen.
To recognize the good ideas we have to first realize that not everything that comes out of our brain is a good idea even if it sounds awesome. The cattle glom looked great on paper, but turned out to be a bad enough idea to drive players away from the table for a few years. That, however, is another story.
So we accept that a bunch of our ideas are going to be crap. Are you feeling bummed out now? The next step is to realize that we are bad asses, and will come up with some cool ideas. Creating cool stuff means you have to kick your insecurities out of the car, and leave them on the side of the road. If you are not ready to do that, just tie them up, shove a gauge in their mouth, and throw them in the trunk for a while.
Now we are bad asses who make awesome things some of the time, but mostly we make a lot of crap. The problem is that all our ideas sound awesome inside our own heads. To train ourselves to pick the awesome from the crap we need a sounding board. A friend of mine and I will often invoke what we call “GM’s privilege,” which amounts to saying, “I know you are playing in my game so I need you to forget about this by next Monday, but what do you think of this idea?”
When you start talking, and you see the other person’s eyes light up, and they start riffing off what you are telling them, that is when you know you have a winner. Given time and practice, you will be able to spot these gems on your own.
But, I hear you saying, what if I can’t just come up with ideas all the time? That is where this week’s homework comes in. We know what a daizoowhoozle looks like now. But how about a kruplupis? Don’t read the comments yet. First write a kruplupis of your own. Tell me about your kruplupis.