Where Do Writers Get Ideas?

Where do writers get their ideas?

Part 3: Crafting a Process for Harvesting Ideas

The dreaded question. Where do writers get their ideas?

I’ve been exploring this the past few weeks. I believe that writers don’t like to answer this question because—for a busy, accomplished writer—getting ideas is the easy part. Their creative subconscious is always churning out new ones.

But for someone that hasn’t been writing since they could hold a pencil, this seems like a daunting task. Especially in an age where there is so much media out there, it feels like all the good ideas have been done.

You can overcome that hurdle by taking risks, combining ideas into a new thing, and creating a process that nurtures and harvests new ideas.

For some writers, all of this is second nature. But for many, they had to learn a process so they could write consistently.

Because, and this is the rub my friends, if you’re not writing consistently, you’ll never finish your story.

Continue reading “Where Do Writers Get Ideas?”

Where Do Writers Get Ideas?

What inspires you to be creative?

Part 2: The Things that Inspire you to Write

For some reason, writers don’t like to talk about where they get their ideas. And to the outside observer, it seems like writers magically get their ideas from the thin air.

In this series of posts, I hope to break down some of this mystery and maybe help you stop worrying and start writing.

In my previous entry, I said that writers don’t like to answer this question, because they’re busy doing harder tasks. Writing a story—that’s both entertaining and coherent—is far more difficult than coming up with an idea.

But to newcomers who want to jump into the craft of writing fiction, getting a fresh, original, and interesting idea can seem daunting.

So, let’s start out simple: what do you love?

I’m not talking about big things like family or God, but the things that inspired you to write in the first place.

Many accomplished writers started out very young. Long before they published a book, they were writing as children. They’ve been writing for so long, they don’t even think about how they get ideas. Their creative subconscious is so used to churning up new combinations of things, it’s second nature.

But you have to start somewhere. You might as well start out with the stories you already love.

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Getting Used to Writing Badly

Getting used to writing badly

I don’t know much about Jennifer Egan, but she’s credited with one great quote:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

This is so brilliant, that it bears an entire article to unpack and talk about.

I’m a freelance writer. Been writing for a living for about 4 years. Long before that, I was simply an amateur fiction writer. I would spend free time working on a short story or manuscript. But it wasn’t until I started writing for money that certain things clicked into place.

When you’re aspiring to be a published fiction writer, it’s easy to put off work (i.e.: writing). You probably have a day job or school—and numerous other responsibilities and social obligations. Setting even ten minutes aside to work on that idea or continue to story can be impossible.

But, for me, that luxury went straight out the window—when writing meant I could pay my bills!

Freelance writing, or at least the kind I was doing, requires that I write. A lot. Often about things I either don’t know much about—or worse—don’t even care about. In order to earn enough to support myself, I had to churn out mountains of content on a daily basis.

The only way I could survive and then thrive was to be satisfied with writing badly.

Continue reading “Getting Used to Writing Badly”

Sketch-writing, a new discovery of mine

Do any of you like to draw or write? I’m sure a few who visit my comic do, so I’m going to share with you a little tip. It is a simple one, for sure, one that I’m sure you already know. I–being the blunderhead that I am–only recently really figured this one out and it has helped me immensely (or I should say, will help me immensely, once I start using it regularly).

When you sit down to draw a picture, if that is in fact something you do, spend the first 5-10 minutes sketching something else. If you don’t know what you want to draw, find a picture online and try to draw it. Find several. Sketch until you fill a few pages in your sketchbook. They don’t have to look nice, they’ll probably be very rough (they’re sketches, of course). Once your hands and brains are warmed up, move onto the picture or project your initially had in mind to draw. You’ll discover it will come together much more easily, and you’ll be happier with the final product.

I don’t know why this is the case. As humans we can grow incredibly rusty, even over night, and need those creative wheels re-lubricated regularly. Also, as simple-minded humans, we need certain things–important things–reiterated to us over and over again, so we don’t forget them. This also includes skills we wish to master. Doing them over and over again makes us better at it. This you already know, but the secret is to do this repetitive trick before you actually do the work you want to do. That is commonly called sketching or warming up. Musicians are particularly good at it (or have been trained to do it whether they like it or not).

This can also be applied to writing, or better put: this happens to writers whether they realize it or not. It took me many years to discover I was sketching in my writing. I would often have an idea, or an itching to write, and would jot down a few words. It may have been merely a paragraph, or a few sentences. I would get excited about what I was writing, but had no clue what to do with it. Could I turn this into a story? A book? The answer usually was no. But that didn’t make the writing any less valuable, just because I couldn’t slap a title to it and show it to the world. That small act of writing was helping me improve my writer’s muscles. The more I did it, the better I could write. Finally I discovered, much like when I prepared to draw, writing a few lines of simple nonsense would help me prepare for whatever larger work I wanted to do.

Of course I’m sure you all already know about this trick. Maybe me laying these words down are just a sketch for myself. This blog needs a few more word in it anyway. In any event, here is my sketch-writing from this morning. It is singular in that, I might actually work on it some more in the future. Who know? It might be a little book. What you need to know before you read it is that it is written by Algerbane, the wonderful Wizard of Quippley. Maybe it is the start of his memoirs.

I don’t really know what to write about.  Everybody keeps asking.  They insist.  “Al, you really should write down your story,” is usually what they say.   They assume that because I’ve been on so many adventures, appear well-educated, and am fairly competitant in magic, I am also good at writing.  Or, at least, I should have a desire to tell about all my adventures.  Yes, they think I should.  I should want to tell my stories, as much as they do.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during all those adventures, is what goes on in one person’s mind is not necessarily the same as what’s going on in another’s.  What most of these people do not realize is that what appear to be “stories” to them are, in fact, the irrevocable events of my life.  Most of which I am not too keen on sharing.

There is also the matter of the actual craft of writing.  It may come as a bit of a surprise to these “people,” but I’ve never been quite good at it.  Why do they think I went on so many adventures?  If I could actually be content with sitting in a chair, staying in one place, and writing all day–I would have!  Then all those wonderful adventures–those terrifying events of my life–would never have happened, and I wouldn’t have anything to write about.  A bit ironic, if you ask me.

But I’ve always been a “man of action.”  Oh, saying it that way makes it sound terribly exciting, but I just mean I was too stupid to keep my nose out of trouble.  There are many different kinds of people in the world.  Some work with their hands, some write, some devote their lives to knowledge, some only wish to make money.  I am one of the unfortunite lot who only seem to happy moving about, getting involved in other people’s business, and generally making a mess of things.  I’m sure that makes for a wonderful story, but it makes for a miserable life.  You go ask all my loved-ones (the ones you can find who are still alive) how much they’ve benefited from my erratic lifestyle.  I’m sure you wouldn’t be pleased by their answer.

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