Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where do writer's get their ideas...

Recently I have been trying to provide a good answer to the following question 'Where do writers get their ideas?' The people asking are school students and would not be too keen on the best answer I have, which is that I don't really know where my ideas come from. Or more specifically I do know where they start but i don't know how they transform from that first thought or phrase or image into the story that pops out at the end. When we were in the midst of renovating our house several years back, my builder brother-in-law was head builder on the job. He's an excellent builder and craftsman, is also into books and like us, owns a dog. I can't remember how the conversation started. It was just idle chit chat over lunch but somehow I came out with a sentence about a man having a dog-eye. What is a man with a dog-eye? How on earth had our conversation brought us to this strange sentence? I can only explain by saying this is the way my brain works. All the time. I can't switch it off. It segues in the most unexpected directions and this is why I am a writer. And I can't complain. I like that my brain does this. The man with the dog-eye sentence turned into a short story about a young boy who owned a dog who met a scary old man that dogs would follow like rats after the pied piper (The Man with the Dog Eye). Would living with his grandmother in a house that sets sail help a shy boy come out of his shell? (The House that Went to Sea) This grew from the name Granny Nor (the family name for my husbands grandmother).

For me, ideas turn up unexpected and unbidden. My job is to recognize the idea and grab it close. I have to keep my ears and eyes and mind open. It seems like magic to me and is certainly not a thing of logic. Am I strange amongst writers in this? I couldn't say. I only know that this is how it works for me. But it makes it jolly hard to answer the question 'where do writers get their ideas.'

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