Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from?

Simple answer: They come from everywhere.

And that simple answer drives new writers nuts. They look all over the place and don’t see any ideas! What is the crazy person talking about?

I understand the frustration. I was there once.

What I have learned is that, yes, the ideas are out there. But first you need to learn how to SEE them.

What do I mean by this?

A comedian can take the simplest thing in life and make it hilarious. Is it because the world they live in is funnier than the one we live in? No, it’s because of how they look at the world. They have trained themselves to see the humorous aspects of the same world the rest of us live in.

And that’s why they can make a living keeping people laughing.

It is the same with writers. It is not that writers intrinsically live in a world more interesting than other people (although there are always exceptions). It’s that they have trained themselves to see the possibilities around them.

It’s how we look at the world.

Ideas are all around us every single day. But in order to see them, we have to look at the world a little differently. Slightly cross-eyed with a squint, while doing a handstand.

Okay, maybe we don’t have to go that far.

But we do need to let go of ‘normal.’ Don’t be a control freak, don’t force it. Let yourself be open to the kinds of ideas that anyone else would think stupid.

Relax. Take a deep breath.

And remember to never call your idea center or your Muse stupid. THEN take a look around.

That article in the newspaper about a new way of gardening? There’s an idea for technology, location or character. The news report about the firefighters saving a kitten that turned out to be a domesticated large cat? Oh, big idea there for a set-up in a book. How about a new technological breakthrough? Big story idea of what would happen if the idea were taken to the extreme.

Almost anything can be the core of an idea. The grandma ahead of you in the checkout stand with a streak of neon yellow in her hair? How about the crazy magazine article titles? The downpour that catches you before you can get the groceries unloaded”

Any of the above can inspire a location, the beginnings of a small scene, an introduction to a character or premise, or all the way up to a full plot. Let yourself see the small possibilities along with the big.

Learn to see the possibilities around you.

For some people this is easier than others. I sometimes have trouble because my mind over-analyzes everything around me. I explain things away with logic. But the worlds we create aren’t always logical (or they will threaten to become boring). It takes practice to let go of the rational part of the brain, and see things from a slightly different angle.

The effort is worth it. Once you start seeing the possibilities around you, the ideas don’t stop. At first this is a great thing. Oh, look, story fodder!

But the ideas keep coming…

Then comes the realization that even if you live to be 200 years old there won’t be enough time to write all the ideas.

Gee, what a problem to have!

Once you get past the mental barriers you’ve set up in your mind, you will find the world full of endless possibilities for characters, locations, scenes, and yes, even entire books and series.

Practice with one edition of your local newspaper or the evening news. Pick out one thing that could be useful in a story. Try looking for the little things first if looking for the big ideas is too much pressure. Look at the titles of the magazines at the grocery store while you are waiting to check out and find just one that could contain the glimmer of an idea.

Then play “What If?”.

Writing is as much craft as art. Craft can be learned. Start training your mind on the craft side, teach it to be open to what is around you.

The next question is how to organize these ideas…


“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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Where do ideas come from?

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