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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where Do Ideas Come From?

In high school and most of college, I was convinced that the only way I could put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard was if a brilliant idea popped into my head. I had to wait for some kind of (magical? divine?) inspiration.

But after a really long dry spell with no ideas, I had to change my thinking on this. And, after speaking with many aspiring and established writers over the years, I realize I am not the only one to believe in the myth that a writer waits for ideas to come to her.

So, if creative ideas aren’t magically placed into our heads at regular intervals, where do they come from?

 Well, I don’t know where they come from or how they form, but I do have some ideas on how to find them, other than the normal writing prompt/timed writing exercises. Here are some of my favorite idea-generating methods:
Photography: Taking photos forces me to look at common objects or everyday people from a unique perspective. My photography teacher and my creative nonfiction teacher both said the same exact sentence about their respective crafts: “It’s about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.” This has become my personal definition for art and helps me find new twists on common ideas.

Bookstores/libraries: I like to think I can absorb the creative ideas from the books on the shelves through osmosis. Plus, people-watching in public places like these can generate some wonderful ideas. Or better yet, ask any bookseller (or anyone who works in retail) to tell you stories about their “favorite” customers. I guarantee you they all have at least one story to inspire you.

Yard sales: I casually walk through community yard sales (or drive slowly past them) so see if any interesting objects stick out. I wonder about the history of the objects, how they were used, how that crack got there and why is there a speck of paint there?
These are a few samples to get you started if you’re having a blockage of ideas. If you’ve developed some unique idea-generating methods, we’d love to hear them! Post a comment and let us know.

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