Finding the story: Gavin Inglis on enLIGHTen…

Gavin Inglis muses upon finding the story behind the commission. Gavin’s lovely story for enLIGHTen is called ‘Starfield’ (his audio piece features star sonifications from the Kepler satellite!) and it responds to the words of Allan Ramsay being projected upon 1 Rose Street.

The process of coming up with an idea for a story is mysterious. Harlan Ellison liked to lie that he got all his ideas by post from a service in Schenectady. It’s not like Sudoku, where certain rules, rigorously applied, will always solve the problem. Yet it is something of a puzzle to be solved. I spend a lot of time on this when I’m teaching, because for many students getting started is the biggest obstacle. This is the process I used to come up with the idea for my story Starfield for Edinburgh City of Literature’s enLIGHTen project.

I got the commission email in last thing on a Friday. That weekend featured two tough deadlines, and I was teaching on the Monday evening, so I didn’t really engage with it until Tuesday. At which point I learned they wanted a piece of flash fiction by Friday, for audio delivery, to a very specific brief.

The story had to relate to David Hume’s old house, previously at 8 South St. David’s Street. It also had to be a response to a quote by the poet Allan Ramsay:

Schools polite shall lib’ral Arts display,
And make auld barb’rous Darkness fly away.

Now, understand, my normal process for writing a story includes leaving it in a drawer for two weeks, and having it workshopped at a monthly session with Writers’ Bloc. I am also absolutely dreadful at writing to themes. It’s just not how my idea factory works. I contacted Peggy at City of Literature and blagged a weekend extension to the deadline.

So now I was committed to doing this in about five days. It wouldn’t be the writing that would be the problem; 600 words is nothing. The challenge would be coming up with a workable, on-topic idea, and forcing it to come quickly. I saw three possible entry points: the location, David Hume himself, or liberal arts…

This is just an extract! Follow Gavin’s creative journey over at his blog