Get Creative Inspiration from Your Other Writing

Martin Ott

Like many other poets, I have other creative outlets including fiction, non-fiction, and writing for TV and film. Sometimes research or creative output on one project can provide source material for work in other genres.

For example, the poem “Battlefield Typewriter” in the current issue of North American Review is the result of research I was doing to support the development of a TV pilot of my novel The Interrogator’s Notebook. I was surprised to discover that one of my favorite writers, J.D. Salinger, worked as an interrogator during WWII, and I found myself wondering how this experience impacted his personal life and writing life.

Writing Ball Keyboard

Over time, I’ve discovered that creative work can transform itself in strangest ways from one genre to another. I was once working on a screenplay, (The Impossible O’Donnell) about a magician, and one of my favorite scenes in it was the protagonist’s out-of-body journey to Magician’s Heaven, a place where only dead magicians resided. The screenplay, in the end, never found its footing, but I ended up using this scene as the genesis for the poem “Magician’s Heaven” published in Hotel Amerika and in my book Captive.

Over time, I have seen poems morph into short stories, novels, novel excerpts into poems, and stories that didn’t know they were poems or vice versa until I pushed them one direction or another. Many ideas have haunted me enough to appear in multiple forms. This obsession is not just relegated to my own creative work, as I freely admit to being inspired by the news and other writers’ work as creative springboards.

Perhaps the biggest lesson for me is that although the act of writing is in itself a lonely act, the interconnectivity of the worlds of the writer spans not just to the reader but to the act of creation itself.

A former U.S Army interrogator, Martin Ott lives in Los Angles where he writes, often about his misunderstood city. He is the author of 4 books of poetry: Underdays, University of Notre Dame Press (2015), Captive, De Novo Prize winner, C&R Press, and Poets’ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network (2014), co-written with John F. Buckley, Brooklyn Arts Press.In 2013, he published his debut novel The Interrogator’s Notebook, Story Merchant Books. His Writeliving blog - - has thousands of readers in more than 100 countries. He has also optioned three screenplays. Find out more at Martin's poem, "Battlefield Typewriter," appears in issue 299.1.

Photograph by Sverre avnskog