One of the most asked writer questions — I’d be willing to bet, but I haven’t done a formal study — must be “Where do you find your ideas?” I’ve been asked it a lot, and I’m not a well-known writer. I’d guess J.K. Rowling could feed a school-full of children for months if she got a penny for every time she’s been asked this.
There is, of course, no one answer. Some people get ideas in dreams, and some people get ideas everywhere from walking around the supermarket to driving to taking a shower.
Driving and showering are often creative times for me, apparently, according to articles I’ve read, because those are times when your brain is on autopilot, requiring little concentration (although judging by most drivers, we might be on autopilot a little too much on the roads) and allowing our brains to wander. I’ve also gotten quite a few ideas, and solved a few plot problems, in church (it’s wonderful to sit there quietly alone, very peaceful).
Dreaming is the same, a time when your brain can play and new ideas can pop up. The difficulty with dreams is that many of us don’t remember our dreams. I’ve read the advice to keep a book next to my bed to jot down ideas as soon as I wake up and before they dissipate, but it doesn’t often work for me, as my dreams seem to go bye bye as soon as I open my eyes. Some people can have just a scene, an image that sparks a story (how Stephenie Meyer was inspired for Twilight), or the entire story can unravel in a dream. The other day, my husband told me his dream, which was a fully fleshed out short story, complete with twist ending and social commentary. I’m so jealous.
Sometimes dreams do stay with me, however, and those are the ones I figure I should try to pay attention to, as they must have fought hard to stay in my brain. I had one such idea the other morning. There was more to it when I was dreaming it, but when I woke up, all that stayed with me was the title and a vague idea. But it’s promising and I think has the makings of a good picture book. Better yet, I told me husband the idea, and he filled in the ending. Maybe he had the same dream I did.
One writer I chatted with on JacketFlap one day said her stories come from a title. I had been complementing her on the fun titles of her books, and she said the titles pop into her head and she formulates a story around them.
However the ideas come, the important thing is to write them down — no matter how small — and allow them to seed, grow and produce fruit in our brains and on the page.
So, I’ll ask it: Where do you get your ideas?