Sunday, January 23, 2011

Where Ideas Come From

Years ago I attended my very first SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. Like seven years ago.

anyway... Norman Juster was a presenter and he spoke (in part) on this concept:


"Ideas are not external to you."


So often we (okay, okay I) search the world around us, like a frantic lunatic, looking for the perfect idea. We ask people for them. We read papers for them. I personally have even been known to beg the heavens for the perfect idea that will make it all better and easy and wonderful.


But it doesn't have to be that hard.


Norman spoke about keeping a memory journal and jotting down bits and pieces of our own memories.

He reminded us that we have a wealth of ideas inside of us
and, what I thought most important, we don't have to farm them out all at the beginning of a novel.

We can let them come bit by bit


natural to our story.


We can, in short, trust ourselves.


Tell Me:
where do you get your ideas? are you ever amazed at what comes dancing out of your fingertips in a writing session? do you sometimes forget to trust yourself? please tell me I'm not alone in that regard....

21 comments:

storyqueen said...

I keep an idea page in my writing book. I am always adding to it, for fear of someday running out of ideas.

Actually, I get more ideas than I know what to do with, however not all of the ideas are things that I think I can write. (Some just seem too hard!)

Shelley

Corey Schwartz said...

I am one of those people who has a difficult time "farming" ideas (funny, I never thought of it as farming until this post :)

I get kernels, but the only way I can get a full-fledged idea is to brainstorm aloud with a partner.

Tess said...

Shelley - I just recently started an idea journal. I think it is a good way to keep track of our thoughts because we do have these ideas that come along and we, at least I, can be so forgetful.

Corey: me too! Once I have the concept, I have to talk it through...it has to be outloud with someone (usually my hubby) or it gets all lost and jumbled in my mind.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I think it takes practice to trust yourself. Kids have it, then lose it. We adults spend the remainder of our lives trying to get it back. When I trust myself, I discover wonderful ideas and the flow of words. I get most of my ideas by eavesdropping.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Ideas pop into my head at the most bizarre times. And they are usually only snippets. So I always have a pen and paper within reach. The ideas I like, I log into a file on my computer. Some of these ideas never amount to anything, but some start to grow. It's kind of fun, really.

Paul Greci said...

I think my ideas come from a combination of life experience, imagination, and things I'm curious about. That said, sometimes they show themselves easily front and center, but often I have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them.

Tess said...

Mary: this is exactly the point I'm thinking about today...how we need to better trust our creative selves.

Cynthia: on the computer? that's organized! and yes, I agree, it can be so fun.

Paul: the image of you on an idea scavenger hunt up in Alaska is a great one.

Martin Willoughby said...

I've got bits of paper filed away and scribbled notes on the computer. Someday I'll get round to them.

I also collect 'wisdom' and joke books. Not for story ideas, but ideas for scenes in a story, or for a witty comment that may help move the story along.

Robyn Campbell said...

Heyya pal. My ideas come from EVERYWHERE. The kids, a phrase I overhear, even from other books I read. I might read a sentence and think of a TOTALLY new book idea. Oh, er, the hubby gives me some too. Just this very morning he was talking about a sci-fi book idea he's come up with. Uh, he knows I write adventure, right? I furiously typed his idea and stored it in my computer. UGG. :) It was actually pretty good. One never knows, do they Tess?

Oh and I sometimes forget to trust myself like every week. You are definitely NOT alone. :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Hah, you're not alone. I really have no idea where my ideas come from. I can't search for them, I know that. They just come from my brain, somewhere in the deep recesses of my strange, whirling thoughts. The good ones don't seem to come very often, and many times it's talking with other people that develops them completely.

Tess said...

Martin: that book idea is a fantastic one..thanks for sharing it!

Robyn: you never do know and I think it's better to keep a file of ideas that come to you even if only one of the fifty or so ever actually make it out. and, that hubby idea sounds interesting and fun...

Glam: "strange, whirling thoughts"...man, you are such a writer!!!

lotusgirl said...

I have my ups and downs about ideas for stories. I like the idea of a memory journal. My ideas come from inside me mostly. I'm often struck with them kind of all at once. I just thought of one Sat. that I would like to write. It's a departure from what I've written in the past because it's completely reality based nothing supernatural in it at all. We'll see how that goes.

Tracy Edward Wymer said...

I get ideas from experiences and traveling, sometimes at school. Sometimes it's a word or phrase you hear.

Anita said...

The idea I'm working on now came from a newspaper story that really, really moved me.

Kittie Howard said...

Hi, I'm dropping in from Mary's blog. Nice to meet you *waves*. I still trust myself but when ideas don't come (they need a break, too), I just read a book. Like a cat that can't be ignored, ideas return.

I'm following you now.

ali said...

Hi Tess! Coming by ideas has never been the hard part for me. I have so many, that it's harder to choose which ones have the most merit than. Still. Though I have an easy time with the BIG IDEA, it's sometimes hard to figure out how to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

And YES I OFTEN am amazed at what I end up writing! It's like the characters take on a life of their own. In fact, that's exactly what they do. I've been known to say to my husband, "Guess what (fill in character's name here) did today!" Luckily, he's familiar with, and loves, my brand of crazy, so it's all good. :)

I love the advice here though. You can't force the creativity. You need to give it room to ebb and flow and fill you all the way up.

Tess said...

lotusgirl: you know I love realistic fiction so this new idea intrigues me...

Tracy: I imagine there are a wealth of ideas teaching children. lucky you!

Anita: really? I've heard things like this before and do believe we can be inspired by others in such a way

Kittie: Welcome! thanks for coming by...and, you are right..sometimes we need to take a break from trying so hard and let the ideas seep back in naturally.

Ali: hi, friend. I struggle with the 'how to make it happen' thing as well. and, love how you talk about your characters like real people. they're real to us, aren't they? ha!

Nichole Giles said...

I get my ideas from life--my life, my kids' lives, kids friends lives, etc. Every day there is a new conflict in the life of a teen. Adults too. It's not so hard to find a story in there.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm full of ideas...I might see a chunky squirrel running across the street and get an idea. (Yep, got one!) Or hear a story from neighbors chatting about something that happened years ago. (Yep, got another...) Or I might see or hear a word or a song and get an idea... I keep a variety of notebooks too. Travel ones are my favorites.

Karen Akins said...

I think some of my best ideas come to me in dreams. My "but that couldn't happen" filter isn't on, and when I wake up, the imagery is so vivid for a few moments. So, yeah, I keep paper by my bed at all times. :)

Tess said...

Nichole: I love that pic of you sipping the tropical drink...it makes me want a vacation!

Sharon: travel journals are great tools, I agree

Karen: I have ideas in dreams but, when I wake up, I realize most of them are too zany!