Where do you get your ideas from?*
This is a question every writer gets asked. Often. Because we hate not responding, most of us will eventually figure out a quick answer to that question and say,
“I read a lot.”
“From my mind.”
“From the Authors’ Ideas Subscription Service.”
Here’s what we’re actually thinking, though…
What goes on in your head if you don’t have story ideas? Is it just empty? Are you mentally replaying reruns of Desperate Housewives? The Simpsons??
It’s rather like we’re talking to an alien species whose brains function in a manner totally different than ours.
Most people who write (and do other creative things) are reformed daydreamers. You know, like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. We always got in trouble in grade school because we were staring off into the distance while the teacher lectured on Paul Bunyon or Massachusetts or…whatever she was talking about.
While we’re doing that, our brains are doing this:
Our brains are taking little tiny bits of data (garnered from reading books, watching TV, looking at the night sky, smelling food, looking at pictures in magazines, listening to people on the subway, etc.) and rearranging those bits of data into new combinations. Sometimes they work out to be really cool combinations, combinations that work together to form a new story…
This is simply how our brains work. What if? What if? What IF???
But we generally don’t want to explain all that, so we come up with a pat answer. I prefer “I read a lot.” It contains a morsel of the truth yet doesn’t bog down the conversation.
So when a writer gives you a flip-sounding answer to that question (or gives you a blank look because they haven’t yet decided how to answer it) don’t take it personally. We’re not being evasive or putting you off. You truly don’t want to know all the little bits and bobs that went into inspiring my dragon stories or my Saratoga Springs stuff. It would take hours to explain and bore your socks off.
(Because once you get us started talking on the subject, it’s hard to stop us….)
*First of all, the writer is having trouble not correcting your grammar to, “From where do you get your ideas?”