January 28, 2013

A Writer's Life - Where do you get your ideas from?

I guess this is one of the most common questions writers are being asked. And the usual answer is that we just don't know. I realize this sounds slightly pretentious, but it's true. Ideas just happen to us. At any time. In any place. Are we finding ideas or are they finding us? Does it really matter as long as we meet at the writing desk?

Copyright by Cayusa

Neil Gaiman once wrote a fantastic blog post about this, where he says, "You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it." But no matter how weird or deep or intriguing or bland any author's explanation on idea-gathering may be, what it all boils down to, and what Gaiman put quite nicely when he said, "I make them up. Out of my head." is probably as close to the truth as you can get.

Basically it's just all in our minds. Particularly peculiar (now try to repeat those two words ten times ... fast, ha) explanations are mostly our creativity leaking through. Of course, sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction and the curious way we were inspired for that short-story about a ghostly revenge is more disturbing than the little tale itself ... but I digress.

Does it take away or rather add to the mystery when authors offer up some quirky anecdote about how they got the idea for one of their stories? I honestly don't know. What I do know, and maybe that's the writer in me talking, is that I rarely find it interesting to learn more about how a plot-line came to be. Well, at least not down to the last gory detail. In the end it's the actual story that grabs me. It's a bit like not caring about the cook shopping for ingredients and simply relishing the delicious result, if you will. Of course that's just me. Maybe I'm too familiar with the whole process of catching that idea before it turns into a pillar of salt, to be unduly interested about fellow writers tiptoeing through their own muddy patches of ideas. Maybe writers are simply prone to view this all a bit differently than readers will.

I shall leave you with something John Steinbeck said, "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." Now you know where ideas really come from. Having sex. Ha.

Have you ever wondered about where writers get their ideas from? Or are you just happy that they got them and brought them on paper? Do you like to learn more about how a story came to be or is it enough for you that you've got an enjoyable read in your hands? Please share!

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