Monday, May 8, 2017

Guest Post: WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? by Jan Christensen

Another week begins with an inspirational post by Jan Christensen.....

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.


Michael Bracken said...

If you write enough, there will come a day when you no longer need to chase the muse. The muse will lean on the doorbell and pound on the door demanding to be let in.

Jude said...

I'm a people watcher. I look for stories in what they say, how they say it, and what they do, and how they do it. If somebody says or does something I find interesting, I'm quick to mimic it in writing. Then I start looking at what it could mean in the form of a story or for some possible ulterior meaning in what was said or done. It may not develop immediately into a story, but it almost never fails. I start obsessing and eventually something will materialize.Thanks for the post. It's always interesting to revisit where those ideas come from.

Jan Christensen said...

Michael, I love the image of a muse knocking on the door. I bet my aunts will make a huge racket.

Jan Christensen said...

Jude, I’ve heard that some people do what you do, but for some reason I rarely do that. I think I must get more ideas from reading than from watching. Then I make up my own stories using ideas and bits and pieces from other’s stories.

Earl Staggs said...

Interesting thoughts, Jan, as always. I really don't have a muse, but I'm going to order one from Amazon (Why not? They sell everything else). Once I get my muse, I'll have someone to blame when I spend a day and a half trying to turn what I thought was a good idea into a good story.

Kaye George said...

Love this post! I don't have a personified muse, but obviously I need one. I'm going to work on this.

Jan Christensen said...

Talk about interesting ideas, Earl. The next time I need a new aunt for the attic, I’ll remember your tip about ordering one on Amazon. For me, coming up with ideas is not very hard. But as you point out, making them into good stories is often trickly.

Jan Christensen said...

Kaye, check out Earl’s idea of ordering one from Amazon. I’m sure they have some in stock. Maybe even free shipping!

Kaye George said...

Of course! I do have Amazon Prime, so shipping should be free.

Jan Christensen said...

There you go, Kaye! Good luck. I hope your muse doesn't turn out Snotty!