For Frank Herbert, it was mushrooms. For me, it's a good book or movie that energizes me to tell my own tale, one that's just as enthralling as a work by my favorite authors or directors. They did it, so why can't I? Anything is possible! That excitement I feel can carry me through the first round of notes or even an entire first draft, as I pour out all of my ideas in some semblance of order. (They'll make sense during the revision stage.)

Sure, part of me—that curmudgeonly internal editor—tries to halt me in my tracks every chance he gets. "Your stories are never as good as you want them to be," he'll say. Or "Enjoy those favorite books and movies, knowing you'll never write anything even close." Or "Be a reader, or a cinephile. Give up writing. The world has too many writers already."

The problem is, I can't help myself. Good stories inspire me to write good stories, whether or not I succeed. I do the absolute best I can, share them with readers, and then move on to the next. Because there's always another tale waiting to be told, just beneath the surface. And I never run dry, thanks to the authors and directors who continue to impress me with their gift of storytelling.

Lately I've been reading Jeff VanderMeer and Ben H. Winters; both have a strong grasp of characterization and the English language, as does Josiah Bancroft, an incredible writer. I can't wait to read the final installment in his Babel series, which has been a joy to experience. The Expanse series is also ending this year, and I'm very curious how James S. A. Corey will pull that off.

On the movie front, two of my favorite directors released films one week apart. I've been a fan of Denis Villeneuve since Arrival, and then Blade Runner 2049 made me an even bigger fan. But Dune: Part 1 might be his best work yet; I felt like I was watching the book on the big screen! Edgar Wright, whom I've followed since Shaun of the Dead, went a very cool direction with Last Night in Soho, and it was fun—though I might have laughed during a few of the "scary" scenes.

Keep reading. Keep watching. Keep writing. Ray Bradbury warned us about the mindless consumption of mass media interfering with our ability to think deeply. So I do what I can to avoid social media and the idiot box, yet I also want to stay informed about what's going on in the world. It's a balancing act. But I know where I find my inspiration, and too much pablum doesn't do anything for my writing. Instead, I'll find those good stories and dive deep.

Now, where'd I put that book...

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