I met a cousin recently who read my latest book. Being my cousin, he was very supportive and complimentary. And then he asked a question that I have been asked frequently: Where do you get your ideas?
That’s a good question. It’s one I haven’t adequately answered yet because the truth of the matter is, I’m not sure. Where DO we as writers get our ideas? Yes, we can be prompted by inspiration from God, a newspaper article, a random comment, or a hundred other sources. But how exactly does the process work of coming up with details and organizing them into something meaningful on the page? I read a comment from a world-famous author who has written sixty books and sold a gazillion copies. He said he doesn’t have a clue where his ideas come from!
My cousin was quite curious about the creative writing process, and he pumped me for information. He referred to several scenes from my book and asked where I got the ideas for them. I told him that some were based on personal experiences, but others were pulled from thin air. That’s the best answer I could give him. Creative writing is pulling ideas from thin air—inspiration, if you will—and organizing them into a logical, sequential manner.
Some days the ideas pour onto the page like water from a pressurized hose. Other days they collect like dew, slowly and imperceptibly. The fun part, however, is looking back over something I’ve written and thinking: Where did that come from? I wasn’t planning on heading in that direction. The story has taken me on a new course.
That is the aspect of writing I like the most—letting the story surprise me. I love it when that happens! Sometimes I laugh out loud at a detail that unexpectedly surfaces, and other times I get out of my chair and pace around excitedly in the realization that an unplanned detail has surfaced, opening up a whole world of new possibilities. And, of course, there are the occasions when I despair and think that I’ll never write a coherent sentence again. Sometimes the well is full; sometimes dry. And I don’t know why that is the case, either way. I only know that when the well is full, boy, my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with the ideas.
I’m a huge fan of the Beatles. For all the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote, they admitted they had no idea where the music came from. They called it the “music of the spheres” because it came from “out there somewhere.” The same place story ideas come from, I suppose.
I do believe in divine assistance, but how exactly does the creative writing process work? Any thoughts?