“Where do your ideas come from?” That used to be the question I dreaded getting when I did school visits. The truthful answer actually is probably “I’m not really sure.”
When ideas come
They don’t come when I’m sitting at my desk for sure. Occasionally as I type a story may go off in a surprising direction. I might get insights into one of my characters or one of them may start behaving badly or unexpectedly.
The big ideas though come at other times:
· When I’m driving, cooking, ironing, walking, swimming or exercising at the gym
· From conversations I overhear
· From how I observe people behaving
· From news stories I come across
· From dreams
· From prompts by others
How to remember them
There is always the danger that I think I’m going to remember them as they are so vivid at the time and I may even rehearse then in my mind. Unfortunately they are ephemeral; they disappear as easily as they appear. No, they must be written down in my notebook or typed into my phone. The newspaper article must be clipped out and filed in a pile next to my computer.
Air above the head
A speaker at a conference I organised recently claimed that we are more creative when we are less enclosed. That would explain why walking brings ideas. When I first started writing I worked in the long part of our L-shaped dining area. The ceiling was at normal level near the front door and went up to double level by the time you got to the lounge, which was the only room on the first floor, it was double height. So, it was almost double height where I wrote. I never ran out of ideas in the early days.
The gym and the swimming pool also have high ceilings.
A student conformed this also. She worked on one module that she loved with a tutor that usually inspired her. However, she only got her bright ideas as she walked to the bus stop. The class took place in a low-ceilinged modern room.
Getting fussier about ideas
Most of us have bags of ideas when we start out. Then we use them all up and have to look for more. We become fussier. Is it really a story? Has it been done before? Will I be able to write it?
Fortunately I have a list of ten ideas for short stories and have a very rough outline of five more novels in my head. I’m not going to run out of steam any time soon.
And if you do run out of ideas?
· Retell fairy tales, Shakespeare, and the Bible
· Tell a well-known story from the point of view of a the baddie or a minor character