Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inspiration in Life and Anonymity

It's the most common question a writer gets.

Where do you get your ideas?

Dude. I dunno. They're just there. Like pimples. You go to bed all like, "I have a pretty face," and you wake up with a zit on your nose. Ideas are like that. You go to bed all like, "I am a hack and I can't come up with an original idea evar," and you wake up with an idea ricocheting off your brain.

But I figure that if I had to give an answer that didn't involve pus-filled-pustules-that-are-the-bane-of-teenagers, then I'd give a two-fold answer.

Where do you get your ideas? Life.

I can't take credit for this one. KL Going said it.
Life is more important than writing. Living my life, to the fullest, experiencing the world, traveling, tasting, seeing new things, loving my family and friends, learning interesting skills...this is where success lies, not in being published. The beautiful twist is that these are also the very things that will infuse my writing with heart.
When I'm stuck and I need an idea, I sometimes break the Butt-in-Chair mantra. BIC is a good solution to writer's block--often the best and only solution. But when I'm really stuck, I get up and do something. Something new. I go to a new restaurant and try food I've never had before. I turn down the roads that I always pass on my drives to and from work--you know, the roads that go off in the distance and you always kind of wonder where they go, but you never have time to explore. I just go for a walk. Something. Because living life leads you to stories.

Where do you get your ideas? What if.

The most important question a writer can ever ask is simply: what if. What if? What if he met her? What if she hated him? What if the prophecy couldn't come true? What if the hero was a bad guy? What if aliens landed right now?

Have you ever looked at a person on the street and wondered what she was going to do that day? Or have you ever wondered what that guy you work with would do if some extreme situation landed in his lap?

That's what you do with writing. You explore the what if. Ideas spring from that.

Check out this video. Fifty people were asked one simple question: where would you like to wake up tomorrow? They each had a different answer. They each have a different story. The girl who wants to wake up at home with her parents if very different from the boy who wants to wake up next to his father's tombstone.

So: where do YOU get your ideas?
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