“Where Do Your Ideas Come from?”

I think that I’ve been lucky…when I finally started telling people that I was a writer, I’ve had nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses – their eyes light up! They’re excited about it!

And then they ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”

…Mystical ideas…floating around in the ether like fireflies on a summer night until we writer-folk pluck them from obscurity and weave them into something coherent and magical…

I mean, that’s really how the question is phrased – like you’re doing a freakin’ magic show at an eight year old’s birthday party. Which is fine, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t seem like magic on this side of the table – when you know it’s just a matter of distraction and slight of hand and a lot of practice.

My short answer (an introvert’s favorite kind) to this question : “My head..? I guess?” Followed by an awkward silence. (Note: you will get a similar response if you ask me what my novel is about…you know, except with less* words) 

I kind of freeze up when I’m put on the spot, you know. So, if you’ve ever asked me this question and I looked back at you like a deer caught in your headlights, this post is for you. I admit that saying I just get my ideas from my head is a bit of a cop out. So… I’m going to give you my long answer in case you were wondering –

Where do my ideas come from?

And the answer is – from everything.

I get my ideas from what I read and what I see in the world around me and my own experiences and Wikipedia (the greatest invention known to writer-kind). I get my ideas when I’m half asleep in the morning or at night – when my brain is still in limbo land and even the craziest of ideas makes perfect sense (until I wake up…).

I get ideas from my children. They say some crazy (and creative) things that make for some good visuals. I steal…ahem, I mean ‘borrow’ ideas from my four year old all the time. She also comes up with the best names for things.

I get my ideas from people I know or people on TV or people you see on the street. It blows my mind to think of how many people there are on the planet and that each of them is real person like me, with thoughts and feelings and life experiences, just like I have thoughts and feelings and life experiences. And it makes me wonder “What is their story?”

I get my ideas from character traits – “I’m want to create a character who’s a complete hypocrite!” (True story)

I get my ideas from society – things I like, things I don’t like. What would happen if {insert societal movement here} was taken to an extreme?

Speaking of ‘what ifs’ – ‘What if’ questions are great when you’re trying to develop a premise. I mean, that’s a dystopian writer’s best friend, right there.

Sometimes, I just come up with the name for a story or a name for a character and go from there.

Also, Pinterest. I’ve got five boards dedicated to character inspiration and world-building.

And then what? You have all these ideas, but what do you do with them?

Write them. Write them down. You write a snippet here and there and pretty soon you’ve got a whole collection of ideas and characters to pull from. They will being to coalesce into something interesting – whether it be a short story or a novel or an epic series – like pieces of a puzzle falling into place. And then you’ll get more ideas as you begin to pull everything together and fill the gaps and build your world.

It’s an exercise in building something, as I’ve said before. Layers and layers and layers of ideas and thoughts and explanations.

Life experience – that’s where the best ideas will come from. Don’t go out and get a writing/English degree if you want to be a writer. You need to do something…my degree is in accounting, for crying out loud (talk about one of the least creative fields out there).

Learn and travel and meet people and read and think and experience and for goodness’ sake, write those ideas down and more will come – and that’s a promise.

*For you, husband dear.


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