WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? by Jan Christensen
Every published author will eventually be asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Stephen King has his “boys in the basement.” Riffing off of that, I have my aunts in the attic. And sometimes the Mad Hatter. (And probably bells in my belfry, as well.)
Victor Banis has his muse Snotty. Other writers and artists have had muses throughout the ages.
A muse is defined as: a spirit or source that inspires an artist. Some famous writers, such as Hemingway, used real women as their muses, then married them. Unfortunately, the muses often divorced the writers. I don’t know what that did for the writing of the writers, but it couldn’t have been very good in the short term. In the long run, it may have inspired a lot of writing, especially about what women are like. Or what they thought women were like.
Do those who write both short stories and novels have different muses for each length? Would there be any upside in doing that? I think there might be. The short muse (of course short in stature) is direct, to the point, pithy, impatient. The long muse (tall, of course) is wordy, slower to react, and patient. Or perhaps one muse has a split personality.
For me, besides joking about the aunts in the attic and the Mad Hatter, I don’t really have any muses that I call on regularly. When muses are mentioned, I think of the aunts and the Hatter, but otherwise, not very much.
If you dig deeper into the idea of a muse as inspiration, you realize it is really only a trigger. Or something to get angry with when the inspiration isn’t there.
In order to really get ideas, I suggest more concrete tactics. To start, just pick something, anything. Animal, mineral, vegetable. Rock, paper, scissors. Then pick another and another. It would help if they are not usually associated with each other. An animal with scissors, for example. Next write whatever comes to mind for as long as you can. Eventually you most likely will get stuck and not know what to write next. Ask yourself, what if, and list all the things that could possibly happen next. Pick one, or combine some, and off you go again. It can be weird, strange, unlikely, odd, whatever. Quirky is good.
Other ways are to visit places you’ve never been before, people watch at the mall, look at pictures of strangers or even of people you know—one or two of their traits might spark something.
The trick is to absolutely believe that you will come up with something. If you write steadily every day for about a month, this confidence will come more easily. I’ve written so much that I never have any doubt that I can come up with something, that really, I’ll never have enough time to write everything I can think of into publishable form.
So, if you think having a muse will help, make one up or use a real person for inspiration. If you just want to go right to the writing, pick a few fun things to write about and Go.
Jan Christensen ©2017
Jan Christensen lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, and has had nine novels and over seventy short stories published. www.janchristensen.com