Where I get my ideas:

No, not like that. Ideas are not wafting in the atmosphere, waiting for me to get all gauzy and goddessy with an Enya CD playing in the background whilst I face West (or is it East?) for the zephyrs of inspiration to blow my way.

No, this is (usually) how I get my ideas:

Yeah, when I catch up with an idea it can get pretty bloody sometimes.

I decided to write Chapter 5 (Bordeaux wine country) in That Damn France Bookin an A to Z format, each letter heading up a wondrously unexpected anecdote about the art of travel .  Additionally, the narrative would be chronological; there would, in other words, be a time-line-ish flow to my wine-soaked romp through the alphabet.

I’ve been working on it for weeks, and finally I have all my letters in a row and I can’t wait to fill them in with deep, deep thoughts and stuff. Well, all except the letter J. I have not been able to think of ONE THING I want to say about the art of travel that begins with the letter J.

One of the things I do when I’m stuck at a creative dead end is, I lie down for a meditation with a book that is completely unrelated to anything I am trying to think my way out of (this is how I excuse my natural tendencies to lie down and read at almost any given moment; if only there was a way a girl could earn a living by lying down and reading…). And I said out loud to the four walls: I am going to read this book until I come across an inspiring word that starts with the letter J.” I did, I really did say that out loud.

Five minutes later it came to me. The letter J – word that I’d been fretting about for weeks. Out of the blue: I didn’t even have to read it.

All these years of stalking Ideas in a life-and-death struggle in the void: Can it possibly be as easy as asking for an Idea out loud? Is the Universe really, actually, listening? This is going to totally screw up my whole philosophy of Art, as well as topple my whole raison de boire .

And I’m glad that I’m not writing this blog into the void, either: thank you, everyone, for all your nice comments and notes about yours and my Memorial Day thoughts. I think the Universe knows that behind all that real and virtual spit, there’s plenty more spit (for the deserving) where that came from.

Ideas: what are your tactics to getting them? What was the best idea you ever had?  Do prompts work for you or not?

8 comments to Where I get my ideas:

  • Now you know why we discourage writers from attempting an alphabet book–there is the dreaded “X” test. Yours is the “J”, apparently.

    And yes, if you ask, you’ll get an answer. Asking right before you go to sleep works too. You’ll wake up with the answer plus a lot of other weird stuff you can’t use in your book, or in real life, no matter how tempting.

  • Deb

    Why do people catch butterflies anyway? To break their wings or pin them on a board so they can inspect them in the light? At least a lion is honest in its savagery.

  • J.- John, the reason I went to France.
    The best idea I ever had- not marrying him.

  • Sandy

    Ah the dreaded writer’s block – of sorts. I agree with the ask as you go to sleep . I often find answers by morning. But then I like the read while lying down too!! So we have to wait will 2012 to find out the J answer??????

  • So, what are you going to do when you get to “Z”?
    I personally don’t like alphabet books, except when they are a complete story, like- I forget her name. Did the alphabet to M, the last I read.
    All murder- mysteries. Very entertaining, but I got tired after M.
    Started with “A is for —” and it was a whole book.
    Your ideas are usually right on the mark for interest. Are you sure the alphabet is the way to go?
    Love the pictures of those babies hopping on the rocks. I went to the Edinburgh Zoo and saw the largest concentration of Penguins in the world, but they have since moved them ( mercifully) to a COLDER CLIMATE. It was a wonderful experience.

  • Nicole

    Journey. aka ‘journee’ used in ‘Bonne journee’, a common phrase used as you leave a shop.

  • Deborah

    My guesses for the J entry: jardin, jam, jewels, July

    I don’t know if your list is in French or English

    Back in grad school (a couple of decades ago), I wrote a paper on “Summoning the Muse” — ways a breaking through writer’s block. The two things I remember from doing that research is that one approach is to shift from left brain thinking to right brain — either lull the left brain through repetitive actions (Einstein said he got his best ideas while shaving) or shock it into submission through novelty. I find the former much easier & my best ideas often come while I’m driving. I also like to make messy lists, in no particular order. I HATE formal outlines.

    The other thing I remember is one writer talking about “Bathroom Epiphanies” — how writers sit in front of their computer and wrestle with the idea, until they finally have to pee, and then in the process of getting up, going to the bathroom, coming back, they can suddenly “see” the solution to the problem. Could be the left brain relinquishing power, or not.

    I used to think the left brain/right brain thing was just a metaphor, until I read “My Stroke of Insight”

    My best idea was adopting a standard poodle … and continuing to do so

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