Where Do Ideas Come From?

confused toddler with question marks surrounding him

More successful writers than I, have blogged on the topic of finding ideas for stories (or blog posts).

Writing magazines and author blogs offer prompts to fire the imagination. Few inspire me.

Only when I have to follow a prompt – for our monthly writing group ‘homework’ or a competition I want to enter – do I force myself to address the topic, perhaps by making lists, word clouds, spider diagrams…

But without such boundaries, my mind remains stubbornly blank.

Occasionally, one of these stories dragged from me by a prompt has gone on to be placed in a competition, although, by then, I may have removed the reference to the original prompt that I’d shoe-horned in, or the first line we were given to begin the story.

dog walker

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Before I retired, solutions to problems facing me in the coming day were often solved during my morning dog walks. These days, I’m no more likely to recall any dog-walk inspiration than I am my midnight musings. (Which, sadly, confirms that my memory was once better than it is now.)

One day, I might remember to take my mobile phone dog-walking with me to record any such thoughts. Of course, on the rare occasion I do remember to take the mobile, inspiration eludes me.

My problem is that I don’t have spare thinking time. When not physically occupied with mundane tasks, such as cooking or shopping (…housework? What housework?) my brain is kept busy writing, reading, or solving puzzles. (Contrary to universal weight-watching advice that dieters should concentrate on the food they are eating, I either read or complete a puzzle during meal breaks.)

I have tried utilising those long periods in bed at night when I’m having difficulty getting back to sleep after being woken by barking dogs or an outside noise, or other call of nature. Thoughts of things I forgot to do yesterday arise to keep me awake, or suggestions for things I need to do tomorrow.

I know from experience that I won’t remember any of these in the morning. I will only recall, tantalisingly, that I had something I must remember, not what that something is. I have learned to keep pen and paper under my pillow to write down anything I want to remember next day, if only to free my mind for sleep.

It therefore seems sensible to use such wakeful periods for thinking up ideas for my next story or blog post, especially as I have writing implements to hand. (Whether I will be able to read such nighttime scrawlings in the cold light of day, is another matter.)

Directing my sleepless thoughts to explore writing ideas has proved my most effective cure for insomnia to date.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is to start writing and see what comes.

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Easy!

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Please share any strategies that help you decide what to write about.

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22 thoughts on “Where Do Ideas Come From?

  1. I sometimes find trying to write a conversation kicks starts me a question from one character requires an answer that sometimes works. Other times I am completely out of ideas, a bike ride will sometimes sort the brain out or a visit to a library with the intention of writing, rather than putting pieces into the jigsaw.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have an imaginative mind and I also encounter a lot of weird people who sometimes say nice things, often say awful or unpleasant comments. So, these form my think thought topics to blog about. Or maybe it is just me, with a lot of things to say and put in my blog haha! You are never too old and if we believe we are old, then the battle to plod on goes out the window My hairdresser is in her 60s and she is feisty in that she cycles with her adopted dog and is going to build a side car for the dog to ride along with her on her bicycle. Putting the little dog in her basket is precarious she told me. I admire her sense of wanting to do things and forward views of life that we yak about when she cuts my hair.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kudos to her. I never was any good on two wheels. On the back of a motorbike, I would be trying to keep the thing upright when we went around corners… and I f I have to pedal as well…
      I prefer a wheel at each corner.
      My dogs will have to walk like I do.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I remember when I began writing my memoir, ideas were flooding in. At first when an idea came to me, I’d wait until the next day to write it down. Lo and behold, the next day those ideas were long forgotten. I learned to write them down as soon as they popped into my head.
    I’m a pretty fast typist (200 wpm) and I couldn’t seem to type fast enough to get all my ideas down. Many times I had 3 chapters going at the same time. I was so afraid to lose anything.
    I soon found out I had Asperger’s, which I write about in my memoir. I point out that it’s not a disorder or disability, but those with Asperger’s have incredibly active minds that never really seem to shut off.
    It’s been discovered that those with Asperger’s, as well as those with high intelligence without Asperger’s, have one thing in common. The shut off valve of our brains have been broken (at least that’s how it seems for me). The more active a person’s mind is the more this disrupts the circadian rhythm that tells us it’s time to go to sleep. Most people with this ‘problem’ are night owls. I have tried and failed to regulate my sleeping patterns and have given up. Now I embrace it and go with the flow.
    I literally can’t go to sleep until I am so dog tired I can barely keep my eyes open. I envy those who give a yawn or two and say, “It’s time to hit the hay for me.” If I did that, I’d be spending hours awake in bed just lying there.
    Another situation that has exacerbated things for me is, during my childhood I was abused terribly and was the lucky recipient of multiple concussions. This has also served to break the shut off valve to my brain.
    My point in mentioning this is I have no shortage of ideas. They come to me and I find that I write nearly everything down. Not everything I write about comes to anything, but it just feels good to write, if that makes any sense. The majority of ideas I get are from writing or image prompts. I’m so glad I’m a writer! It gives me an excuse to be crazy with all the off the wall ideas I have in my head! Many times I get my ideas from coloring in my adult coloring books at night while trying to relax. It can be a blessing and a curse to have the shut off valve of your brain broken!
    I had to laugh when Jim Borden and Cathy Cade talked about writing about nothing because I wrote a flash fiction piece about nothing. I have a good many flash pieces written and I would love to publish an anthology soon.
    Happy writing, everyone!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I do. When I’m writing my memoir I get such satisfaction out of finally wrangling just the right words that capture what I was going through at that time. Just knowing that I finally have those words out of my head and on paper; words that have been aimlessly rattling around in my head, finally have a permanent home.
        Awhile back wrote a piece called ‘Architects of Pen & Ink’. In that piece I write about the process that we, as writers go through, in finding just the right words to construct just the right sentences to complete our masterpieces.
        I also touch on the idea that, as Creatives, we have the ability to help shape people’s minds – many times for decades to come. Because of this, we have a responsibility to make sure that what we put out there is nourishing to others.
        There is another element of writing that I love and I don’t know if it has anything to do with my Asperger’s – although, it very well may. I love the tactile sensation of the keys under my fingers as I type. I love the way my fingers fly 🪰 across the keyboard. My biggest fear is that my laptop will run out of ink! 🤭

        Liked by 2 people

        1. A laptop running out of ink, now that is an interesting idea. A member of our writing group Wendy Fletcher; wrote in her auto biography, A Railway Carriage Child, about her mother telling her, “if she didn’t stop talking so much she would run out of words.” Fortunately she hasn’t.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I love it!
            Those of us with Asperger’s are very concise and to the point when speaking. Obviously not in writing, as you can very well see! 🤭
            Because we communicate a bit differently, I always tell people,

            “Pretend you’re running on batteries and you have to conserve your energy.”

            I tell this to customer service people all the time. I also tell them,

            “By doing so, at the end of the day you may find yourself less tired and more energetic.”

            One of my greatest pet peeves is when I ask someone in customer service a simple yes or no question, they give me this whole dissertation or manifesto. My mind is already swimming with words, ideas, and thoughts. The last thing I need is more of them to confuse me all the more. 🤭

            Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing. You’ve done well to harness your difficulties and go with the flow.
      I’m rarely teeming with ideas, but I do recognise the thrapeutic value of writing. It helped me when we suddenly lost a young and apparently healthy dog. My daughter has found her blog helped her come to terms with her cancer diagnosis

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are welcome. Thank you for such a lovely and inspiring post.
        I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your dog. I think that’s the hardest part of having a pet; realizing that one day they’ll be gone.
        How is your daughter doing now?

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I love the idea of writing and seeing what comes. Because I believe that ideas are radio waves, and we’re all transmitters. Once we tune in, we can relay the message to others, but that often involves sitting down and doing the work. Anyway, thanks for this post, Cathy!

    Liked by 3 people

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