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Where do ideas come from?

What to do when you're stumped for an idea

Where do ideas come from?

If there’s one question that gets asked more than any other at literary events it’s ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ – well, it’s a toss up for first place between that and ‘how did you get published?’ This made me wonder why audience members are so interested in where ideas come from and whether they’ve come to the event in order to find out the answer or whether the question occurs to audience members as they listen to the event. I think it’s probably both: people wonder about where the ideas for a story or character came from as they are reading or watching AND as they are listening to a writer talk about their work.

Looking at it from the wrong end of the kaleidoscope

Audience members, readers and viewers are looking at a fully formed work: the finished book, play, TV programme, film, the pretty pattern at the end of the kaleidoscope as it were. That means the years, and the hard work, that went into creating it are hidden. It’s not surprising that the origin of the idea seems magical and mysterious faced with the finished work. It’s almost as if the ideas popped out of nowhere! Not surprisingly, because we’ve been invited to do so, audience members and readers are looking at idea generation from the ‘wrong’ end of the kaleidoscope, as it were. Look at the process from the beginning instead, and consider the amount of time and commitment the piece took to develop, and ideas don’t seem so mysterious any more.

Focus on the process

So when you’re trying hard to come up with an idea and wondering – when you’re so easily stumped – how on earth the latest episode of Dr Who came to be written, or how the script writers for Eastenders or Death in Paradise came up with so many story ideas, or how your favourite novelist keeps coming up with such interesting hooks, remember that these writers too were once in your shoes. You can also learn to find, incubate and hone ideas, and you can do it time and time again, as long as you focus on the process and not the end result, at least when you first begin.

I’ve written more about developing your ideas in this post.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx

P.S. Want more on idea generation in the meantime? Take a look at this post.

P.P.S. Want some free writing prompts? Try this Quick Writing Experiment.

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