Once people found out I was a writer, and more so now that I have this blog, the most common questions I get is this:
“Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”
My answer is always the same. Getting the ideas is the easy part. Taking that thought and making it into a story is the hard part.
I think the common misconception about writers is that we get the idea for a whole story in our heads in a flash of brilliance and inspiration. It has been my experience that is not how things really work. I have yet to have a sudden epiphany and instantly a whole story come to my mind. It is usually one line that come to mind, or even just a fleeting thought. Odds are you have had one too.
For example, you may have wondered “What if the sky was green?” or “What if I could visit Venus?” That’s all it takes for me to get started. I start thinking about it. How would life be different under a green sky, could it change our skin color? Could it change the way things look around here? I play with the idea in my head until I am either ready to write about it, or I throw it out.
That’s right, not all my ideas became stories, I’ve had to throw a few out. Throw them out is not really accurate. I keep a book of my random thoughts and ideas. Since I think of them a lot at night, and have a nasty habit of forgetting by morning, I write them down. Some have turned into stories, others are still sitting there. Some of them joined with other ideas in the notebook and their love child became a story.
So when do I think of all these great ideas. All the time. At night when I am about to fall asleep. Some come from dreams I have had. I have to write those down in my notebook fast since I forget my dreams easily. At the gym on the treadmill, I mull many a story idea over there. What else am I to do walking all that time and getting no where?
Ideas come all the time. Its the ones that stick in my head that become stories. The ones I can’t seem to stop thinking about. They grow in my head, until I am dying to write them down. I have to constantly ask myself, “So What?” The sky is green, so what? So, I can visit Venus, now what? As I keep asking myself what is next, the story just form in my mind.
However, that is hardly the end of it. The next challenge is getting the idea on paper. Developing the right way to say things; to paint a picture with my words.
What do I like to do to help me catch my muse, to keep coming up with those ideas and playing with them in my head? Music is always a good way for me to clear my mind. I mentioned above, the gym always works for me. Sometimes a long drive also helps. Some authors find reading helps them. I tend to get wrapped up in the story I am reading, and while reading is very inspirational, it doesn’t allow me the chance to play with my own ideas. But, I know it works for many.
So, while getting the ideas is easy, using them is hard. That is what really takes time. Good luck with yours, you just may have the next big idea just waiting to be developed.