When I was a kid I was awed by the adult section of the library. So many books! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. Where would I start? I was a voracious reader and by the time I was finally allowed to borrow from the main floor I’d long run out of interesting books to read in the children’s section.
This worried me. I reasoned that if I’d out-read and out-grown one section of the library so quickly there was a chance they would run out of books for me to read long before the end of my life, and I was planning to grow very old.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that our small-town library was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to books. No matter how quickly I devoured them, there were more being written every day. All these strangers were writing down stories for the rest of us to read. How did they keep coming up with all those ideas?
A large part of what drives artists to create comes from the need to get those ideas out of our heads because there are always more hiding in the wings. I’ve got a long line-up waiting to be noticed. I only have to peek behind the curtain and something will usually jump out at me.
All art, good or bad, starts out as a thought in someone’s head. We see or hear or dream something and it sparks an idea. My friends who are musicians or painters have the same drive to express their ideas as I do. We interpret those ideas and then splash paint, type words or make music that we hope will be pleasing to others.
Where do all these ideas come from? They come from dreams, from lines I hear while shopping or on the bus, from the sight that halts my steps as I’m strolling along the street. An idea may develop from a feeling I’ll have when someone describes an event or experience. Then there are those ideas that pop out of nowhere and demand my attention like something desperate and hungry.
Sometimes I’ll have a brilliant idea that behaves awkwardly while I’m writing it, leaving me with a shaky plot, boring characters and no climax. I may be tempted to abandon it for every new shiny that comes along but a good idea will keep drawing me back to chip away at it like some renaissance sculptor who finds a statue deep inside a block of marble.
I also like to encourage my friends to write. I’m selfish that way. The more they write the more I get to read, though sometimes that backfires when friends are full of ideas but never actually get around to writing. That’s when they turn to me:
“Hey, you should write about (enter someone else’s idea here).”
“I’ve got this great idea for a story but I can’t stand writing.”
“You should write my life story!” (Funny how someone else’s life story just wouldn’t be as fun to write as my own.)
I’m finishing this blog late after my writers’ bootcamp gathering – which will have happened three days ago when you read this – and was amazed tonight at the rich bounty of ideas that were flowing at that table. Nearly a dozen writers, full of creative juice for their current dark urban fantasy, science fiction or steampunk project. It was as awe-inspiring as those first childhood glimpses of the adult library. So many story ideas; so many potential books.
It’s comforting that the ideas never seem to run out and that people keep writing books. I’m always looking for something new to read, so I hope you’re putting your ideas on paper too.
P.S. – After today, this blog will be posted fortnightly. I’ll see you in two weeks when we’ll continue the journey from idea to story to published book.
“I see something happen, read or hear about an event, and the first question that pops into my mind is, How can I use that in a story?”
– Terry Brooks