The Dreadded Question “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Discussions, On Writing

Hearing those words can sometimes make a writer cringe. It’s a bit like a kid asking where babies come from. I understand that our readers are curious beings, and often are quite inquisitive, but for me to explain where my ideas come from, is a bit like asking to see me in my underwear. I think this is because our ideas come from a place deep inside of us. It’s often the embarrassing, extremely personal, or twisted part, deep inside our brains. Telling someone how you came up with an idea means explaining your thought process, which can be more than a bit awkward at times. Now, if I offer the information, it means it’s not very embarrassing for me. However, there’s still a part of me that wonders what people will think when they read of how a story I wrote came to be. To me, it’s enjoyable to have a bit of that “cloak and dagger” feel to our craft, since people cannot see behind our curtain (meaning inside our heads of course).

Of course it’s not that I don’t or won’t explain how I came to develop an idea, but I feel that oftentimes our readers expect something different coming from someone who has such a vast knowledge of our written language or someone who is able to write a book that seems to change lives. It seems to me that sometimes, when we explain our ideas, they can come from such simple or complex places that the curious reader is often left scratching their head or thinking “Wow, what an idiot”.

Is this making sense to anyone?

What I’m getting at is that each and every single story we write means something to us as a writer, whether it reflects on hard times we’ve been through or it tells of a simple and lovely place in our lives. By explaining how that idea came to be, we are essentially trying to explain a part of ourselves that, quite honestly, we can’t change no matter what we do. If someone reacts strangely or poorly to what we’ve explained we’re left feeling alone, or maybe a bit like a freak. To chronicle how an idea came into this world through your brain is to bear your soul, to bear a deep part of ourselves that, yes, shows in our writing, but can easily be misinterpreted or misunderstood, leading to the awkward reaction from the reader who asks this question.

I think most people would be shocked by the simplicity in which I often arrive at an idea. It could be anything, a conversation, a tv show, a single object seen at a glance, a word, a situation, nearly anything can inspire an idea. I think that’s why it’s often embarrassing to explain the one-way-street thought process that created most of the stories I write.

Tell me, do you enjoy being asked where your ideas come from, or do you cringe occasionally as I do?


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