Sunday, February 16, 2014

Where Do Writers Get Ideas?

Everyone wants to know where writers get their ideas. It’s a question every author who has a book signing or who gives a presentation is asked. Many times, you will hear writers (myself included) admit that they “truly don’t know” where they get them.

For a writer, ideas are like the ocean waves—sometimes they come crashing into our minds; sometimes they roll quietly in and then slip away, receding like a calm ripple; and sometimes they tumble around like a sneaky undertow before they pop up, surface and become a viable thought.

However, there are some truths about all writers:

Good writers are voracious readers, devouring anything they can get their hands on—from the back of a cereal box to a placemat at the restaurant to the directions for the new coffeemaker.

Writers are often asked how do you manage to read and write at the same time? Simple--just like a chef eats, but creates and cooks for his vocation, we read and write. It’s part of the job. Good writers exchange and read works of their fellow writers who create in a similar format. The short story writer will read short stories of masters like Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Louis L’Amour, Kurt Vonnegut,  Eudora Welty, or Alice Munroe. . .and the list goes on.

But don’t be fooled, good writers also read the masters and modern day writers of other genres as well. Why? To discover what is good and what is bad writing. To get ideas. To listen to new voices, to understand new styles, and to discover how characters, descriptions, setting, dialogue, and storylines are created by others.

I personally have found that most writers I know are receptive to new things, are often curious, and do not like to be idle.  They are observant of their environment, situationally aware of everything and everyone around them, and often embrace change, sometimes just for the newness of it. They are able to remember details and, like the cartoonist  who can capture the essence of person with a few  features unique to only that person, writers are also able to sort through detail and write images readers can see and relate to.