Inspiration For Writing

You don’t want to seem like a nutter when you’re on public radio. So when the host asks me – as they always do – where do you get your ideas from, I steer clear of the truthful answer: “psychic connections through the aether” or “hypnagogic messages dictated by our mysterious overlords“. I usually mutter something about stumbling across an interesting fact. Always go for the boring option. It keeps you out of the coats with no arms.

But we can speak honestly here. We all know about the mysterious connections in life. The stuff that goes on behind all those scientific processes. The weird, inexplicable occurrences lurking in the corners of day-to-day existence. The gods and imps and fairies and demons that we like to call other things because, you know, that whole coats with no arms thing…

When I say “the universe speaks to me”, I mean it speaks to all writers, all musicians, all artists. We each tend to put a different face on it, but it’s the same voice. So where do my gods and fairies and demons lurk?

In pubs with stone and timber and glowering locals and beer with strange names. In deep rural life which city folk think is backward, but is wild and dangerous and so removed it might as well be another planet. In bands that you might stumble across in the back rooms of pubs and never hear from again. In stone circles, crumbling ruins, lonely pools, old houses. Across those city liminal zones – industrial estates under sodium at 3am, empty, broken-windowed factories and wasteground with rainbow-streaked puddles. In black-faced, mirror-glassed morris men and biker gangs. In snatches of music heard after midnight. In moots and meets and markets held under moonlight. These are the places where stories are born. These are the locations where my writing gods live.

And for a specific example, here’s one of the inspirations for Age of Misrule

The Dancing Did remain one of my favourite bands, a quarter of a century after they split up. Characterised as “neo rustic pagan bop” or “a cross between The Clash and Steeleye Span”, you can find out more about them here.

Their album, And Did Those Feet, is little-known but essential, particularly if you like fantasy or any of those things I listed above. The lyrics are clever, witty and poetic and deal with ancient things encroaching on the modern world – listen to ‘The Wolves of Worcestershire‘ or ‘Charnel Boy‘. A remixed version with a booklet and additional tracks is available from Cherry Red.

The Dancing Did’s thematic equivalent today may well be Cornish collective Kemper Norton though the music is very, very different. I came across them through the regular ravings of Warren Ellis, another fan. More inspiration. I bet they never imagined they’d be dragging a story about Elizabethan spies and Faerie into the light…

0 thoughts on “Inspiration For Writing”

  1. This article reminds me of a recntly read book, A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, especially your comment about biker gangs.

    Based around the urban magic to be found in London it’s quite an odd/disturbing story but I found it strangely compelling

  2. Lovely blog , Mark , so easy to read and to create images in the mind`s eye . We listen to the same deities .
    Nothing more for me to say : you said it all .
    May your words never dry up , or your pen be still for want of inspiration . So mote it be .
    Yet one more loyal and liberated Fan ……………Geoff.

  3. Very quirky. I enjoy music that’s different yet has obviously taken talent to create. I find Regina Spektor puts me in a creative mood. Her music always sends my imagination down strange avenues. Sings like an angel only to drop off key when you least expect, or a bad piano note well placed to jar you a little…makes for a fun listen. I’m also partial to bluegrass, and heavy metal. I like basically any music that can take me away for bit, the style they choose to do it in, matters little.


    fun stuff, but not for everybody.

  4. I LOVE The Danding Did :) Have you ever come across another Worcestershire Band – And Also The Trees? My favourite band in the world. Very rustic, atmospheric and quintessentially English.

  5. Emma- I’ve heard of them, but not heard them. Sounds like my kind of thing, though. I’ll try to find something of theirs so I can have a listen.

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