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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Friday, September 28, 2012

On Ideas

People are always asking writers where they get their ideas. And there's no single answer to that, but, you know, there sort of is. Writers get their ideas from everywhere and anywhere, and I think that the people who don't write have a hard time with that. It means you have to pay attention to stuff. It means you have to remember things and have opinions about them and think about them when you're washing dishes or vaccuuming the floor. You have to collect ideas, and most people I know who don't write--even really smart people--seem to think it's weird to carry around a notebook everywhere you go. Like, nerdy even. And even in this world where nerds are leading fashion* and making fortunes, people dont want to be nerds.

But there's no mystery to it beyond whatever mystery exists in how brains work. The system is very simple, and it's just something you have to commit to: if you want to have ideas, you have to keep track of ideas. Ideas for books or stories are usually actually several distinct ideas that come together in a new and compelling way, and they wouldn't have happened if you didn't keep those ideas around. Orson Scott Card has a bit about this in his writing book: he discusses how several different and unrelated ideas layered over each other and connected up through brainstorming and worldbuilding became the basis of one of his novels.

And I think people don't want to have to pay attention. It feels like work to a lot of people who don't have a creative outlet, or to people who work on not paying attention because they don't like what they see when they do. I think both of those are unhealthy and unfulfilling ways to live a life, and I'd much rather pay attention--because a good side effect is that you know how unsuitable your life is, AND you learn what you can do to get better choices!

So that's where ideas come from. And they change everything. You don't just have an idea and write a book and never think about it again. Ideas build on ideas, respond to them, react to them. You work through them and have new ideas. You collect them and change your old ideas. You have ideas, you don't just get them.

Now I'm asking you: where do you get your ideas? What do you pay attention to, and what do you avoid paying attention to? How do you think you could culture more ideas--and how do you think you could use them?

*Who'da thunk it? Cetaintly not me, back in the day. Also, I fully approve of stuff I already like being in fashion. Just for the record.


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