I'm on holiday at the moment but that doesn't mean I have stopped writing. My netbook goes everywhere I go. I spent the last three days in Rome, a city which I absolutely adore and which I never visit without getting an idea for a story, in this case a significant new episode in the novel I'm currently working on.
The idea came from looking at a painting in the Palazzo Barberini. This makes it sound as if I'm a great art buff. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to art I'm a complete ignoramus and that's exactly why I find looking at paintings inspiring. Once I get to the point where I know quite a lot about something (or think I do), the subject in question automatically becomes dead as a source of inspiration. This was certainly my experience studying English Literature at university, a degree which I embarked on in the misguided belief that it would help me to become a writer.
There's nothing more stifling to writing than reverence for dead masters. Or even living masters, come to that. I had to spend years unlearning everything I'd soaked up during my degree and that bloody reverence was the last thing to go.