By J.R. Frontera of http://jrfrontera.wordpress.com
…otherwise known as: How To Tap Into the Elusive “Everywhere.” If you are like most yet-to-be-published writers, you attempt to learn all you can from the successful career authors any chance you get. This often includes reading magazine articles, interviews, and online articles about them, and sometimes even traveling to who-knows-where to meet them live and in-person at some sort of writer’s conference or author signing.
If you have done any of the above, you know very well and good that one of the absolute most common (and most utterly annoying) questions these poor people are asked, over and over again, is: “Where do you get your ideas?”
You also know the default answer, equally as common and equally as utterly annoying: “From everywhere.” Or maybe the slight variation, “Everywhere, really.”
For any yet-to-be-published writer out there who happens to be struggling with coming up with constant new ideas, this answer can make you want to throw in the towel. Or, perhaps more accurately in your case, throw down the notebook and pen. Or laptop. Or whatever you write on.
In any case, that question and answer can be cryptic, vague, and maddening enough to make you think you just obviously don’t have the right writing chops to make it in the creative writing world, since, after all, you are not magically channeling stellar ideas “from everywhere” like all of these published and successful authors are doing.
After hearing it sooooo many times, you might even become convinced there is some great and mysterious universal secret that these people somehow cracked, and you are doomed to be left out in the uninspired cold for the remainder of your writing days.
Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret: I’m here to tell you that secret!
And that secret is ….
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
– Maya Angelou
WAIT WAIT WAIT! Don’t throw down your laptop just yet. I promise to elaborate!
There you go, deep breath. Okay, better? Now, listen up.
The thing is … Maya Angelou was completely and absolutely and utterly correct in her above statement. But what does that MEAN?!?!? It means that in order to begin getting ideas “from everywhere”, you have to start “somewhere”.
No? Nothing? You still look lost. Okay, let me try again.
It means that in order to begin getting creative new ideas, you have to start being creative in the first place. You have to start with nothing, or with very, very little, and as you work your way into the creative process – whatever that might be: writing, painting, crafts, cooking, etc – more and more new ideas will come to you, whether for the current project or for a new, future project.
I know, it sounds impossible and preposterous. But as a first-hand witness I can tell you it is SO TRUE.
I don’t know why or how it works, but trust me, IT WORKS. It’s like the creative brain runs on diesel fuel or something. You’ve gotta let it warm up for awhile before it can really start chugging. But once it starts, it will REALLY go, and go for a long time. It’s a flood gate that’s a little sticky, but once you exert the effort to pull it open, screeching on rusty hinges, the water bursts forth in a torrent that will let nothing stand in its way!
Before I started working on my original novels again, I had ZERO new ideas. I hardly had ideas for the novel I was working on! Depressed about this, yet undeterred, I simply decided to start carrying around a little pack of index cards, and determined to write down every possible idea that popped into my head each day. These ideas came slow at first, maybe one every few weeks or so. But I noticed that the more I actually PAID ATTENTION to these little flashes of inspiration, the more frequent they became.
Currently, I could jot down a few ideas every day, if I wanted. (I started this process about a year and a half ago.) And even better, I’ve now got a growing stockpile of ideas filed away for future use. I literally have an endless supply of ideas, growing by the day.
It’s exhilarating. Reassuring. Amazing.
And this hasn’t just happened with my writing, but also with craft ideas, house decorating ideas, and meal ideas. Start somewhere, anywhere you can, and go from there. (Use Pinterest as a launching board for crafty/décor/fashion/food ideas, it definitely helps get the creative juices flowing. In fact, you can even use it for noveling inspiration, as I do with my novel board here.)
The very best part is that ANYONE can begin getting ideas “from everywhere”! Because THE MORE YOU USE CREATIVITY, THE MORE YOU HAVE!
So, if you are feeling rather empty on creativity lately, and are kind of (or totally) panicking about the fact your idea-factory has been cold and silent for years now, don’t despair! I have the fix!
BEGIN WRITING DOWN EVERY SINGLE TINY LITTLE IDEA THAT COMES TO YOU EVERY SINGLE DAY, PERIOD.
An interesting convo overheard at work? Write it down.
A catchy phrase that might sound cool as a book title? Write it down.
Unusual name you’ve never heard before but could potentially be your next protagonist? Write it down.
A hilarious and uncommon occupation which might make an interesting backdrop for a character or plot in a future novel? Write it down.
WRITE IT ALL DOWN.
Doesn’t matter if you think you will use it, or actually ever use it. Doesn’t matter if you have no idea HOW you will use it, if you do use it. JUST WRITE IT DOWN.
The more you write down, the more you will start to pick up on other things to write down. The more the simplest little things will make the creative writerly alarms in your head start chiming. The more often one little phrase will spark an entire novel.
Yes, this magic is really no magic. And it is available to EVERYONE. You just have to start paying attention and writing it all down.
Organizing and keeping those ideas for later use, however, is a whole different story! … which I will address in my next post!
Until then, START LISTENING TO YOURSELF, AND WRITE THOSE THINGS DOWN!