One question that writers, and other creative types (I’m assuming), routinely get asked is “where do you get your ideas?” For some reason many writers find this frustrating. I suspect that’s not because the question itself is annoying, but because the answer so rarely satisfies the person asking it. The fact is that there are no muses who whisper in the ears of writers, nor do words generally flow out without effort. Writing, like most creative endeavors, is hard work. For laypersons, it takes a bit of a shine off the process, I imagine.
But in reality, it makes the question of inspiration all the more interesting, because it can come from anywhere. Allow me to provide a recent example.
My office is in the market for a new lawyer and we’ve interviewed several candidates over the past few weeks. One applicant who was in private practice was explaining the size and scope of their firm and mentioned that, in addition to offices in several large cities there was “one guy up in Alaska.” It was hyperbole, no doubt (and good for a laugh), but it put the idea in my head of a solitary lawyer toiling away in the wilds of Alaska. What sent them there? Was it where the firm misfits went? Was it the shit assignment you had to go through to make partner.
Of course, I write speculative fiction and don’t (generally) write about lawyers. I turned the idea over in my head for a few days and started writing. Alaska became a rock in space called Orsini and the law firm became “the company,” but the central question – what would send a person all the way out there? – remains (and gets answered). It’s got the working title “Retirement Party,” but the more I live with that the less I like it. Hopefully it’ll see the light of day in a little while.
That’s only one example. Inspiration really is everywhere – it’s up to you to do something with it when it tickles that part of your brain that makes you ask “what if?” or wonder “why?”
Like I said – the hard part’s taking the inspiration is doing something with the idea once you get it. So let me get back to it . . .