This must be the single most fascinating issue amongst new writers - and non writers.
Throughout their careers, authors are consistently asked the same question: Where do you get your ideas from? As though there is some secret locked store-room full of them, hidden away,
and that only the best writers are mysteriously given the key.
If you're one of those people that has apparent trouble coming up with ideas, let me reassure you right away. You already hold the key to the 'idea store'. Just like any other writer or creative person, the ideas are inside your head - and all you need is an easy way to tap into them.
Something I'm just about to give you.
You may not be conscious of it now but your subconscious is a swirling mass of ideas just waiting for your attention.
The problem for most long term writers is not 'Where do I get ideas?' but 'Which one of the thousands I have am I going to work on next?' The dilemma then becomes 'When am I ever going to have enough time?'
Because once you gain access to the 'idea store', you'll most likely never have problems coming up with ideas again.
Gaining Access to Ideas
The notion that ideas are plentiful - and you already have them - is comforting to know, right? But you're probably still wondering how to unlock that store.
Easy. First of all, try this exercise.
Write at the top of a page: "Ten Ideas for Stories"
The simple act of doing this begins to open your subconscious mind. Let it do its magic, you really don't need to force it.
Let me explain.
Your subconscious mind is dumb. It cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, real and imagined, true or false. It is constantly taking in information and impressions from the conscious mind and trying to make sense of what it sees and hears and experiences.
It takes the data it has and tries to understand it, quantify it and file it away for reference later.
During this process it compares and contrasts different notions, sees if they fit and when they don't, continues. Most of the time we let the subconscious do this without question, without even knowing it's happening.
The KEY is to interrupt this process and let the notions that don't quite fit come to the surface of your conscious mind.
The Old 'What If...'
Ideas, as in scenarios and interesting propositions that are worth a writer pursuing, usually come in the form of two disparate notions that wouldn't normally be melded together.
For instance. 'A person with a lisp' is not strictly an idea worth pursuing. Similarly 'a person giving an important speech' is not necessarily an intriguing subject. But - 'a person with a lisp giving an important speech' is an idea with potential.
Another example? 'Aliens taking over the earth' is fairly tired subject matter for fiction writers nowadays. As is, 'kids have fun skateboarding' I would suggest. But what about 'Skateboarding aliens having fun taking over the earth?' Now THAT's an idea!
Open your mind to possibilities. Let impressions come in to your mind, let them ferment in your subconscious and take a sidelong look at how your subconscious deals with them.
Ask yourself, what if I put this fact with that fiction? What if this person were in that situation? What would happen if this notion were true? This imaginary place existed, or this particular scenario happened? How would that affect people, my characters, me?
Do this and soon, you'll be scribbling down ideas for stories in no time.
Practice Makes Productive
If you deliberately ask yourself every day to come up with ideas, you'll find that your brain will start to do it automatically.
You will begin to think laterally and see connections where previously you thought there were none.
One the things that helps this process immensely is the simple act of writing.
Many new writers think they can't start writing until they have an idea. Consequently they may never start. This is wrong thinking.
Most ideas only come AFTER you begin writing. As a useful metaphor, it's like turning on the tap. You have to get the water flowing BEFORE the ideas will come.
Writing a story is about letting images and thoughts form as you write, and being open to your subconscious, which is literally bursting with ideas all of the time. But if you don't turn on the tap, you'd never know it.
Don't ever stop writing because you think you have no ideas. Write anyway. And if you get stuck, write about that. Keep asking your mind for ideas, even if you have to write: 'I need an idea. I need something to write. Hey, brain, give me an idea.' You'll find the subconscious reacts well to this kind of stimulus. It works far better that staring out of the window - every time!
What's a 'Good' Idea?
You may be tempted to wonder whether an idea is 'good' or 'bad'? And what's the difference?
Again, this is upside-down thinking. There is no difference between a good idea and a bad one if you never put either of them down on paper. The 'good' idea is anything that gets you writing - and finishing a piece of work, whether that be a paragraph or a novel.
A bad idea is simply one that doesn't get written down.
It's about your personal preference. You may have a great idea that doesn't inspire you to write.
You may also have a dumb idea you find endlessly fascinating, that keeps you writing for hours.
The good idea is the one that keeps you writing.
And out of the wilderness, I hear the mournful cry:
But I Can't Think of Anything Original!
Many new writers have this idea you can't write unless you have an original idea or some momentous new thought.
Tosh! There's no such thing as an original idea. There's nothing new. Nothing.
What's original is your particular way of writing. What's 'good' is your unique way of thinking - and expressing your ideas. And by the way, you're already unique - just because you're you.
Don't ever think that it's your ideas that define your originality. It's not. It's your ability to get them down on paper that is far more important - in any writing arena.
Are we inspired yet?
Now go and write down those ten ideas for stories!
(c) Rob Parnell