I recently purchased a new laptop (hooray!) after ten years of writing on an ancient, Frankenstein’s monster of a machine. While setting it all up, I was greeted by a beautiful nature image on the desktop that did absolutely nothing for me, creatively speaking. I realized that I hadn’t changed my desktop wallpaper in a decade. A decade. I scoured through images for a replacement and found the task far more difficult than expected. I had only cycled a few images throughout my entire writing career, so this was not a decision to be rushed. What image would speak to my current sensibilities? What image would inspire me on a daily basis and encourage me to strive for greatness?
The simple choice of desktop wallpaper can have a significant impact on a writer’s creative process. Staring at the same image day after day, hour after hour, can implant or awaken things in your subconscious. Memories. Senses. People. Creative revelations. Some writers want to see what they’re working for (family) or what they’re working towards (similar projects). Looking back, the choices I made over the years paralleled the different eras in my life and writing.
A Mind Molded by Whedon
I’ve spoken at length about my passion for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the works of Joss Whedon. When starting my screenwriting career in Los Angeles, I wanted a wallpaper that would pay tribute to the show that had introduced me to new depths of storytelling and influenced my career path. Buffy had already been canceled but resurfaced in the form of comics, an early example of the “extended universe” concept that has become so popular.
This striking artwork from the first issue cover spoke volumes to me on personal and professional levels. I never intended to emulate Whedon’s career––our styles are quite different––but seeing his heroine on my screen gave me the courage to push through the innumerable hurdles I faced as a new writer. Every writer has personal demons of doubt and self-worth, and Buffy helped slay mine. The image kept my passion burning despite the rejection-filled, uphill battles that sought to extinguish it.
Resurrecting a Forgotten Love
After a few years, I had paid my dues and earned my way into the Writers Guild of America, no small achievement. I signed with Heroes & Villains Entertainment and began the long journey of taking meetings, seeking out paid writing gigs, and pitching on projects. During this time, I was learning what type of writer I wanted to become. I thrived in creating fantasy worlds and action-heavy tales of good vs. evil. This was around the same time that I rediscovered comic books, specifically the X-Men, and Marvel was just beginning to build its cinematic universe. I completely geeked out over The Avengers vs. X-Men event, and my love for superheroes was revived tenfold.
I was writing so much action, and this image kept me energized. Superheroes and comics honed my ability to visualize action sequences in my head and translate those onto the page. But the image also brought to mind an entire universe worth of diverse characters, themes, and struggles that existed beneath the bombastic action. The balance of emotion and spectacle asserted by the image reinforced my passion for all things genre and honed my sights on exactly who I wanted to become as a writer.
Blood and Sand
I’ve always been a fan of sword and sandals epics like Braveheart. 300 was a visual game changer, but Steven S. DeKnight’s show Spartacus proved to be my all-time favorite entry in the genre. It was the perfect blend of tight narrative, beautiful style, and salacious, uncompromising violence. As I was working on my fantasy epic, Fall From Grace (which had its origins as a screenplay), I needed a constant source of raw, gritty intensity to hit the brutal tone I wanted to craft for the war in Heaven. A Spartacus image was a no brainer, especially this one from the final season that featured some of the best battles ever put on the small screen.
Again, I wasn’t emulating what Spartacus had accomplished but rather was being reminded of all that I loved about genre entertainment. I couldn’t have imagined a better muse…well, except my dog. But he’s at my side, not on my computer screen.
The Spartacus image would stay on my desktop throughout the rest of my time in Los Angeles and then endure as I adapted Fall From Grace into a novel. But when my archaic computer was finally replaced, and I had moved on to a different project, I needed a change. Tonal and visual. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend who had been with me on my journey for so long that it was hard to imagine writing without it.
I tried to think about my recent favorite TV shows and movies (Orphan Black came close to earning the spot). What were my current sources of inspiration? Eventually, I came upon an image that wasn’t what I anticipated but felt right at home when I loaded it up.
And From The Ashes of Their World, We’ll Build A New One
Apocalypse––perhaps my favorite villain from the X-Men. His “survival of the fittest” ideology was easy to grasp yet as complex in its application as his insane power set. Though Apocalypse showed moments of being a physical force in the film, he was portrayed more so as a dangerous, manipulative demagogue. A political and cult figure whose rhetoric was more dangerous than his fists. But whether in the comics or the film, Apocalypse was an almost insurmountable foe that forced characters to become better, stronger, or be crushed into oblivion.
I really enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse, and the film franchise is very dear to my heart, but this image is about so much more than one movie. It’s about crafting iconic, layered villains. It’s about driving my heroes and their world unto the brink of extinction to unearth their true strengths. It’s about power and what it means to have more than anyone should possess. It’s about damn-near everything that makes me get up each day and work in a profession that can beat you down like no other.
It’s about why I love to write.
What is your current desktop wallpaper and why?
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