Go to any writer's FAQ page and there will be a question something along the lines of “Where do you get your ideas?” I've been to quite a few writing conferences, too (at least, more than I can count on my fingers, which is about as good as it gets for me and maths), and, at some stage in the Q & A process, someone will ask the same question. Usually whilst hovering their pen over a blank page. It is an eternal question, and one of immense interest to writers and non-writers alike.
Writers often have no answer.
Some clever responses that I have taken a liking to have included, “Where don't I get ideas?” and “I don't get ideas, they get me,” both of which I can relate to, as I often have more ideas running around inside my head than I have time for. Hence the early days of my writing when I had more unfinished stories than not, as new ideas insisted on being written and seemed so much more enticing than the story I was already working on.
It takes discipline, even now, to store away new ideas and focus on the project in hand.
Ideas don't stop coming. Some I can use in whatever my current work-in-progress might be, others I can use later, some lie waiting but not forgotten, hastily scribbled on a page or keyed into a document called “ideas” or “thoughts”. Or recorded on my phone.
I sometimes feel a bit like a lightning conductor for ideas.
Which doesn't mean that I don't get the tyranny of the blank page. It doesn't mean that my characters haven't found themselves standing around waiting for me to tell them what is going to happen next, just a soon as I've worked it out myself (I visualise them as actors, chatting amongst themselves on the set - perhaps with a coffee? Sometimes one of them is arguing with me).
It doesn't mean that I can just sit down and write. However, I usually find that if I do, something will crop up – it's all a matter of getting the said behind on the said seat.
Recently, I was given permission to be bored. Love it. Thank you Joanne Anderton and Conflux Writers' Day.
Although, actually, I'm rarely bored. Other people might think that I am not doing anything, but... mmm... how can I explain this?
As long ago as I can remember, I have enjoyed solitary time, quiet, and nothing to do. It gives me a chance to play out scenes in my head, imagine amazing places, script conversations, meet new people, create stories.
These days I walk. In my childhood and teenage years I would play ball on the driveway outside my house, or pace around my room. Anybody watching me would think I was insane, because my lips would probably be moving as I let the words pour through me. It used to be good when I had a dog to walk, because I could pretend I was talking to the dog if anybody did give me a strange look, but, hey, who cares now? I have acres of bushland to tromp around in and no-one but the wildlife to watch me.
Talking of wildlife, I saw a great battle scene played out in my garden this morning, after I put some chicken scraps that the cat didn't want out for the birds. Watching the ensuing tussle gave me this great idea. Each of the four types of birds displayed quite distinct characteristics.
And, then, there was the cat, watching them through the window.
What if there was a world, yes, a post-apolocalyptic world, with four warring tribes and some sort of omnipotent observer..?
...and, yes, the dishwasher is still waiting to be loaded, but I've made a note of the scene for later reference, and then I had this idea for a blog post...