If you have been writing with any degree of success, chances are you have heard this question. And truth be told, it’s probably one that many writers hope they never hear again. There are some short answers to the question, but there are no real easy ones. Oh sure, you can say things like, “from my head,” or “from all my collected experiences,” or “they just come to me.” But that doesn’t really answer the question. Not for the one doing the asking.

So, I thought I’d try my hand at answering it.

Where do you get your ideas?

My ideas come from an angry river that roars and thunders its way through sand and rock, propelling rafts of white knuckled riders over gut-churning rapids and spitting them out on shore. They come from a brook where the deer come to drink, and from a farm pond, dormant through the winter, just waiting for the first barefoot boy of summer to come lie on the bank to dream dreams and imagine the man he might become as a red cork bobs lazily just beyond the tip of his cane pole.

They come from bruise colored clouds that drift in spits and tatters over a barren landscape, the setting sun an agony of orange and ocher. They come from Autumn; all amber and smoke carrying the promise of crisp red apples and county fairs. From the first high arctic hint of winter that bites with dragon’s teeth and simultaneously holds the promise of an exquisite, pristine world, soon to be created one tiny individual miracle at a time.

Where do you get your ideas?

From newspapers, books, magazines, cereal boxes, journals, the Bible, graffiti, children’s letters to Santa, anthologies, hemorrhoid cream labels, CD and album liner notes, candy bar wrappers, traffic tickets, snippets of conversations, good jokes, bad puns, cartoons, good music, bad music, “As Seen On TV” junk, fascinating lectures, butt numbing speeches, post cards, letters, emails, texts, old family albums, scrapbooks, stupid signs, Aurora monster model boxes, the sock monkey beside my printer, comic books, Uncle Creepy, The Crypt Keeper, horror hosts on Saturday night, a magician’s trick, Bazooka Bubble Gum comics, and Cracker Jack prizes.

They come from memories of a first kiss and the lingering spark of the best kiss. From the song the heart sings when that special someone holds your hand. Ideas come from the laughter of children and the soul-wrenching tears that are the bitter elixir of grief. From first love, first broken heart, and from kisses that taste like honey and feel like eternity.

Where do you get your ideas?

I’ve sipped Amontillado with Edgar Allan Poe and drunk Dandelion wine with Ray Bradbury. I’ve traveled the White Silence with Jack London and looked upon the horror in the Heart of Darkness with Joseph Conrad.
“Mistah Kurtz, he dead.”
I’ve seen some strange things in Stephen King’s town of Salem’s Lot, and prayed for the morning to come in Charles L. Grant‘s Oxrun Station. I’ve sat at the knee of Charles Dickens and dreamed of Christmas past, and rocketed toward a science-spawned future with Lester Del Rey. I’ve battled the forces of evil with Lester Dent‘s Doc Savage, and tagged along on the Green Falcon’s last adventure courtesy of Robert McCammon. Dean Koontz introduced me to a young fry cook named Odd Thomas and Harlan Ellison showed me just how strong the bond can be between A Boy and His Dog.

Where do you get your ideas?

From the taste of good wine, sour pickles, chocolate milk, filet Mignon, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with and without the crust), good coffee, lemon chess pie, my wife’s lasagna and my grandmama’s collards, not-so-good coffee, and honey straight from the comb. From the scent of chimney smoke on a cold winter morning and the soul lifting fragrance of a Christmas tree. From the smell of fresh-cut grass and a fresh-cut watermelon.

Ideas rise full-formed from the aroma of fresh-baked bread and the steam rising from a cup of real hot chocolate. They hide in the crunch of leaves underfoot in haunted October and the taste of the sea air when July pulls us to the surf and sand.

Where do you get your ideas?

From “ghoulies and ghosties. And long-leggedy beasties. And things that go bump in the night,”¹ and the knowledge that courage is “…when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”²

Where do you get your ideas?

To a writer the question of where you get your ideas is akin to the question, “Where do you get your air?” The problem is not to be found in getting the ideas. It’s sorting them, giving them their head and letting them speak. Because there are so many and they all want to be heard.

In aere aedificare ³

¹ from a traditional Scottish prayer   ² from To Kill A Mockingbird
³ Build (castles) in the air

  1. Paula Petty says:

    That pretty much covers it–except I was sitting on the balcony of my hotel at the beach when a rabbit hopped by. Hmmm. Great post. Thanks.

  2. pmallett67 says:

    I’d say that you answered that question. That was sweet, like red velvet cake (a personal favorite).

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