Where do they come from?

Posted by Ayna Ravan on March 11, 2010 at 5:20 PM

If it’s Tuesday it must be my turn to blog.  But what shall I blog about?  I haven’t a clue, but I don’t want to waste your time, dear reader…. But, wait!  What’s that on the horizon?  Could it be… yes, it is! An IDEA, the best topic I could have asked for, rising like the sun, or is that a lightbulb,  I think it is, for that’s my topic for the week. Ideas, where do they come from, how do you catch them, what makes a good one? Stick around, dear reader, we’re about to go exploring for ideas.

Stephanie’s post about blank pages set me to thinking about how I fight writer’s block and realized, 1) I do use paper and pen to open up a more creative mindset; and 2) I often combat the block by writing something entirely new – maybe an opening, or something trivial that has no hope of seeing the light of day, or just a list of topics that interest me which oftentimes set me off on a tangent to write about.  These are the three main ways in which I battle 'the block' but writing something new needs a starting point, inspiration, an idea.  There are as many ways to find ideas as there are people on the planet and then a few million more if those don’t do it – so let me share what works for me.

My ideas come from everyday events, dreams or nightmares, an unusual idiosyncrasy observed, an overheard conversation, an arresting smell, an intrigueing texture – the senses are a doorway to a wealth of ideas that inform and inspire throughout everyday whether you’re aware of them or not – and then there’s the online gem of random story generators.  My favorite generators are at Seventh Sanctum.  Story generators are useful for those times when inspiration seems to have gone walk-about, and they’re often very fun figuring out how to connect the dots, and always a great writing exercise.

Once I have a starting point I like to look at it from numerous perspectives. An example:

Recently I had a wool blanket disappear from my rocking chair on the porch where I do a lot of my writing with pen and paper.  The blanket disappeared during the night while I was working inside at my desk on a rewrite.  This became my starting point.  From there I considered the many ways it could have disappeared, 1) a neighborhood raccoon dragged it off; 2) a homeless person needed it more than me; 3) there was a meeting of two universes right there on my porch and what disappeared from mine showed up in the other.  These are just three of the ten possible treatments I came up with. There’s a story in each one and each is vastly different from the other.  (Yes, this will probably appear as an Opening in the weeks to come.)

Story ideas come easier with practice just like any skill worth having.  Since I’ve begun writing a new opening on a daily basis I’ve been happy to discover they come easier and quicker – let me qualify that by saying ‘generally easier and quicker’ – and are made up of small inconsequential everyday things, i.e., the mailman who wears a mask as he delivers the mail, a tiny pinpoint of bay-view from the front porch, a robin arriving in winter, even a lost name that was there just yesterday.  Ideas and inspiration areeverywhere I look, touch, smell, feel, and hear.  Sometimes they overwhelm me as I get going and my hand races to keep up.

There are three things you should keep in mind as you set about exploring ideas: 1) never discard anything, write it down - even if it doesn't inspire you now it might at a future date; 2) DO NOT EDIT as you write - nothing kills creativity at this stage quicker than that left-brain and nit-picker; 3) It doesn't matter if you don't know where it's going as you begin - entire novels are written that way in the rough, ask anyone who's ever taken part in National Novel Writing Month.

Finally I'd like to return to that light bulb, a small, everyday item with which we associate ideas, and remind you that it's a small everyday item - one of the best sources for stories that become epics.  It's when the small idea is considered in all it's many ways, and the craft of story is applied that you find something quite out of the ordinary and well worth the struggle - your voice.

Good luck, keep writing, and reading.  Till next week when I really will post on Tuesday instead of Thursday.  - Ayna


Categories: Writers Block, Ayna

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