Listening to the Universe

What's the most common question asked of writers? The inevitable "Where do you get your ideas?"

My favorite answer: "How do you not get them?" Because ideas, I believe, are simply out there, waiting to be heard, like the background static that permeates the universe. If you have the right equipment (a working brain)and really learn to listen, you'll discern so much inspiration, you couldn't write it all down in a thousand lifetimes.

Not all ideas, of course, are equally viable. Much of the creative artist's job is in filtering this raw material, cataloguing possible connections, and judging potential. Some really fabulous, high-quality ideas end up shelved because of their unwieldiness, lack of broad appeal, or a poor fit with the author's overall career plan. While I can practically hear some of you thinking "what a sell-out," these considerations are essential if you're going to make a living as a commercial writer. It's essential, too, to understand time limits. No matter how many ideas the universe rains down upon us, we have only a limited span to act on any of them. So choosing the best, most exciting, and most practical projects ends up defining your career.

So how do you gather ideas and choose which have the most potential? Have you ever been hounded by a totally impractical idea until you had no choice except to write it? (Been there, done that!) What were the results?


Suzan Harden said…
*smile* I still like Neil Gaiman's answer to the question of where he gets his ideas - the discount aisle at Wal-Mart.

My question is - how can you not have ideas? Doesn't everyone dream?

Granted the one I had where I was shopping naked in the Sears tool department isn't exactly best seller material...

WV- "rentroc", the new series telling the tale of a landlord rock band
Like you, my problem is choosing which of the many ideas that are crying out to be addressed will be my project for the day (or week or year)? My "future" file grows bigger as I work on my current article or book.

My writing is the vehicle I use to share some information, insight or advice (in contrast to the notion of an idea being a vehicle for me to write).

And my problem is never getting myself to sit down and write; my problem is getting myself to stop to eat or rest.

With hope, Wendy
boxing said…
Lol on the wild ideas, Suzan. I think it's hilarious when I scribble one of those "brilliant flashes" I get at two AM and it turns into something moronic in the light of day. Some of 'em pan out, though, so I try not to ignore them.

Wendy, I envy you. I live for diversions and often have a terrible time keeping butt in chair. Some days I'm super focused, but normally, it's a battle.

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