Friday, June 1, 2012

Where Do the Ideas Come From?

I have a secret. I often find myself in situations where I wonder what on earth I'm going to write about. This happens mostly when I write short stories, but it does occasionally happen with novels as well. Writing short fiction is great because it doesn't take a lot of time, but the downside is you have to be so creative. I've had over 100 short stories published, and seriously, sometimes I wonder where I come up with the ideas.


Today, I'm telling you my secret. Are you ready?


I sit down. I open a blank document. I start typing. Sometimes, I have no idea what I'm writing or where I'm going with the story. But that doesn't matter. When I get myself in the chair and typing, my brain kicks into gear. It's like I've trained myself to be creative on command.


That's it. Yes, it's the old butt in chair method. It works. The great thing about being a writer is we are creative by nature. So, the next time you think you don't know what to write about, put yourself in your writing space and go through the motions, because your brain knows how to react to the computer and be creative. All you have to do is get yourself there.


How do you find ideas when you think you've exhausted them all?

66 comments:

  1. I love that method! I've come up with many story ideas like that. I also get ideas from crime shows, news stories, non fiction books, etc. And I'm lucky enough to have a crit partner that is great at helping flesh them out.

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    1. Oh, the crime stories you post on Thriller Thursday freak me out. That's great that you can handle that stuff though. There's so much info to work with. :)

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  2. I followed you from She Writes. Oh, the old butt in the chair method. And you are right, it does work. Of course I always think it won't work so I procrastinate and avoid, but eventually when I sit down, the words DO come. I wish I could trust it more :)

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  3. I usually get my ideas from life, especially for my blog. I've had tons of experiences to draw inspiration from, and it all becomes fodder for my writing.

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    1. Life is great for providing material to write about.

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  4. *Knocking on wood* Thankfully, so far, the well hasn't run dry on me yet. I've always had something already in mind when I sit down to work. But then again I haven't had 100 short stories published either! :)

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    1. LOL. I'm a little crazy with how much I write. ;) I bet you'll have that many too though.

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  5. I like this. Going to have to give it a try.

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  6. Yes, your method works well. I also meditate and do creative visualization.

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    1. I like that. I'm going to have to try it. Thanks!

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  7. I get ideas while I am walking or also when I am in bed trying to get up in the morning. I get some good ideas there.

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    1. I'm a shower idea person. Every time I'm in there, the idea come to me. It must be the hot water.

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  8. I agree that this is more powerful than people think, and it's why I think pantsing works. I do keep an idea file, though, and it never totally goes empty.

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    1. Same here, Marcia. My planning is for just in case, but I like to just pants it.

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  9. My problem is not lack of ideas - I have notebooks and notebooks full of 'em. Mine is more, I sit down to flesh them out, and it feels like I can't remember how to put one word after another.

    Generally though, once I do force out a line or two, it's like breaking a log jam, it all begins flowing. So even if the first sentence or two are bad enough to make a third-grader blush, at least they get the waters flowing again. I agree totally with the butt in seat method.

    Also, there are a couple different groups and bloggers I follow (SheWrites sister Liz Shaw is one of them) who offer weekly or daily prompts. So if I need inspiration, I can always go there, and if today's prompt doesn't move me, if I sift through back posts, I'm bound to find something that will.

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    1. Prompts can be great for kick starting creativity. My daughter gives me short story ideas all the time with things she says. It's like I have my own person writing prompt who talk to me. ;)

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  10. That's how I feel about scenes I've been stuck about. I take a break then just start writing . Sooner or later stuff makes sense :)

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    1. Exactly! You stumble a little at first but then it's like magic. The words just come.

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  11. Butt-in-chair is my main method as well. But when even that doesn't work I think about the most bizarre thing that could possible happen at that point in my MS and write about it. Even if I end up deleting it all, my brain is back in gear. :)

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    1. Ooh, I like that technique. I'll definitely try that next time I get stuck. Thanks!

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  12. I do that too! I can come up with something pretty quick. Any subject, I've got something to say!

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    1. LOL. I find I can talk about anything too. It's a good thing if you're a writer.

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  13. Love the butt in chair method! I usually advise folks suffering from writer's block to write a noun on the page and start describing it. Congratulations on having so many stories published. That's awesome!

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    1. Thanks! And I like your method of describing a noun.

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  14. Yep, butt in chair works every time. :)

    When I don't know what to write about, I sit down and pick a random thing, often an object, and then give myself permission to write crap. It's amazing what can come from that! I've gotten several ideas for novels that way.

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    1. Who would've thought crap can lead to brilliance? :)

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  15. People watching is a big idea inspiration for me.

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  16. I wish butt in chair worked for me. Whenever I'm not sitting down at a computer is when all the thoughts come pouring into my head. Then when I sit down to write, crickets!

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    1. Oh, you have to train your brain to work the other way around. Or try writing free hand.

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  17. It usually hits me when I'm walking and talking with friends. I usually have so many ideas backed up in the pipeline I rarely experience the empty-idea situation, so it doesn't come up often. But the thing that really blew me away here? Other than that the butt-in-chair method works for you (of course it does!) is your 100 short stories published! Wow!

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    1. LOL. I started submitting short stories for publication in late 2009, so that number is across almost three years now. Does that make you feel better?

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  18. BIC works every time to produce SOMETHING. However, not all 'somethings' are equal.

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    1. True, but like Tabitha said, usually beginning with crap leads to something good.

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  19. Where do the ideas come from? Everywhere. All the time.

    Like you said, need an idea, sit down and write. Especially if there's a deadline and you're getting paid to write.

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  20. I like your method and I often use it myself. Sometimes it doesn't work as well as I want it to- but I usually start to get some ideas that I want to explore further. I also spend a lot of time observing and thinking to help my ideas along.

    ~Jess

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    1. Observation and letting your mind wander are both great ways to inspire creativity. :)

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  21. I don't know if I could conceive of an idea for a novel this way -- a premise, maybe. But a story arc takes more work from me.

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    1. Oh, I plan my novels ahead of time. But when I get stuck in a scene I do this. I also do this a lot for short stories.

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  22. I'm embarrassed to say that every single thing I've ever written has been butt in the chair. On the rare occasion that I have a firm idea it always gets overtaken by something new which has no bearing on the initial concept.

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    1. There's nothing wrong with that. I really think that we have to go with whatever works for us. I spend lots of time planning my novels (20+ pages of notes on plot and characters) but once I start typing, that usually goes out the window and I let the story unfold on its own. I think I write better that way.

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  23. Ideas whirl around me like a snowstorm; I haven't had trouble coming up with something to write about since I was eighteen. I've found the best time to brainstorm for new stories is when I'm doing a relatively mindless chore, like washing dishes or mowing the lawn.

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    1. That's great for you! I agree about mindless chores freeing up your thoughts for some amazing creativity.

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  24. Wow - your muse must be working overtime. You're the holy grail of pantsers who can sit and write and come up with something good. I'm an outliner, but I wish I could borrow your muse sometime! :-)

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    1. I do outline all my novels. Even if I don't use my planning, I have to have it there, just in case. I do pants all my short stories though. I can do that more easily with short fiction.

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  25. Great idea. Block out everything else and start typing to see what happens. My stories come to me in different ways. A couple times, a little voice spoke to me and I, of course, had to discuss their story with them. Also, newspaper articles sometimes start the ideas to flowing.

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    1. Articles are great for inspiration. Even the headlines alone spark creativity.

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  26. It's usually when I step away from the computer that I get ideas. It could be when I'm walking, cleaning, or doing anything else in which I'm not thinking too hard. That's when ideas come.

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    1. I've had that happen before, luckily not too often. ;)

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  27. I don't write fiction, so I don't need to be creative. i describe an aspect of my life, past or present <3 <3

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    1. That does make it easier as far as knowing what to write.

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  28. following-man you have a lot of skills!

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  29. Okay, first 100 short stories published?? Are you freaking kidding me? Number one, I am terrible at short fiction. Number two, I am terrible at short fiction. I bow down to you for this.

    Second, yes, this is how you get things done. You open the document and DO THEM. Way to go!

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    1. Thanks, Elana. I really never intended to write short fiction, but it's addicting. I also write for set markets now, which helps with the number of publications I have.

      I bow down to you, though. You've career is going amazingly well. You're an inspiration. :)

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  30. Thanks for the inspiring post, Kelly.
    I am sure that now, writer's block will be a thing of the past:)

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  31. I agree! Sometimes just sitting down in that chair and giving yourself time to write will help joggle the old story idea factory:)

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  32. Like you, I write, but in my cases, it's letters. Sometimes it's to the universe in general or I might right to a long time fictional writing friend I created years ago, his name is Nick and he is serving a life sentence in Changi Prison. I've always loved writing letters, and often find what I am looking for and even find nuggets I am not looking for.

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  33. Ideas just show up in my mind, so I'll type up whatever's there and just leave it alone until more thoughts on it come. Seems like if I ignore that story, then it nags me until I get it down on paper. Finding the time to work on all the ideas, though, that's the problem...

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    1. Yes, finding time is sometimes tricky. I jot things down as they come too. I have one story idea that I've been sitting on since fall. I will get to it as soon as the story and characters fully develop in my head. I already know it will be told in dual POV though. A first for me. :)

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