Saturday, December 7, 2013

I get ideas

One of the questions that crops up over and over again during interviews is, where do you get your book ideas? What prompted you to write this or that?

The funny and infuriating thing about ideas are their unreliability. You can't turn them on and off at will like you can a light bulb or a faucet. They don't have a  physical form so you can't grab them, tackle them, or put them on a charge card.

I picture creative ideas and inspiration as an odor. Some will be pleasant, some enticing, some downright nasty. We can't be sure when we're going to walk through them and find ourselves blinking in surprise or choking in alarm and revulsion, but a writer, if they're smart, will be jotting them down. They may not use them right away, but they'll have some form of mental file they can flip through when they need a story prompt.

I take down a lot of notes, usually in notebooks. I write on whatever bare space of paper I can find, often at weird angles running perpendicular to the lines provided. Then I will box them, triangle them in bold so they stand out from the rest of the mess on the page. If I think it's important and want to reference the idea at some later date, I'll remind myself of the news item, the comment, or whatever it was that initially sent that thought into my head and date it so I can track it down and move forward from there when I'm ready to do something with the idea.

Sadly, that's the extent of my organization. I really need to create a folder. Type out these notes, make references, build a little structure under these ideas while they're pulsing with life because they don't survive long without it. I've lost track of more ideas than I care to consider for lack of a better filing system.

I'm always amazed at how easily a wonderful title will pop into my head. If I'm lucky, I might even get a whiff of a story behind it, something to propel me forward. Then I'll write these down, often on pieces of scrap paper that I invariably lose. It makes those predictable moments of frustration, when I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with something better than the crappy working title of my new story, all the more infuriating.

I need a new approach. One I can live with and follow. I'm all about ideas, just not that reliable when it comes to execution and follow-through. I wonder why that is?  I used to be so good at keeping things straight. I was the poster child for OCD. Where did this organized me go?

I have no idea.

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1 comment:

  1. Tara, the inside of your head must be a fascinating place! Hope you find your perfect system some day - but if not, it sounds like you'll always have two new ideas to replace one lost one! Happy creative chaos. :-)