Friday, October 25, 2013

The Idea Machine

Whenever I tell people I'm a writer, they either frown and wonder when exactly I plan to grow up, or ask where I get my ideas. They're invariably disappointed with the answer that they come from everywhere (and sometimes nowhere). But, sincerely, they do. If pressed, I can break it down by sources. Hey, let's do that now! With a list! Ideas come from:
  1. Interesting news stories- truth is stranger than fiction, right?
  2. Running- this may sound strange, but I often get snippets of ideas and whole gorgeous sentences whilst running my 4.5 miles every morning. I also get them when I take my mastiff on her 2 mile walk after my run. I have to go over them a few times in my head so I'll remember them and then quickly scribble them into a notebook once I get home.
  3. Other books- okay, I don't mean plagiarism or copycatting (plagiarism's younger, but still douchey brother), but I've left a reading of many books with grand ideas that were triggered by that story. Oftentimes, these ideas have little or nothing to do with what I just read, but the act of reading seems to leave my mind extra fertile.
  4. The ether- I'm only halfway joking here. Did you ever notice that when artists talk about the origins of their art, it always makes them sound like flakes? Not sure why, but it ALWAYS does. I guess the process involves a certain level of pretense that comes from spending so much time in one's head (see how flaky that sounds?!).
  5. Good old fashioned brainstorming- I normally have at least a general impression of a story before I do this, but just sitting down for awhile and taking notes helps to flesh out an idea better than anything else. I then type up these ideas into a workable outline and start writing. No magic involved, just elbow grease.


  1. Ideas really are everywhere, except when they pop out of thin air, I suppose. I seem to get my best ideas from strange places, like dreams or watching crappy daytime television.

    1. I carry a notebook everywhere because they really do just pop into your head all the time, usually without warning. I hear you about the dream thing. I woke up once in the middle of the night, grabbed a pen and a slip of paper off the nightstand, and wrote a whole paragraph based on what I'd just dreamt. When I looked at it the next day, it actually wasn't that bad!