Getting Ideas

Earlier this year I was struggling to think of a new novel idea. I had been focusing on apps for the past year and a half and I felt it was time to get back into novel writing. But having been working in a different field for so long, I found it very difficult to change gears. I couldn’t think of an idea.

I didn’t panic right away. Usually I get ideas from things I see—newspaper articles, news on the TV, a story I don’t like and how I would change it, etc. Generally it’s a buffet of ideas and I pick which one seems the tastiest to work on. Only this time the cupboard was bare. I figured I just needed to open myself up to ideas. I hadn’t had my mind working in that way for too long. I was busy with freelance work so I wasn’t too concerned, but then I realized several months had gone by and I still didn’t have an idea. Now I was starting to get worried. What if I never thought of another good novel idea? Okay, I realize that’s ridiculous, but there is still that little worm of doubt working away at my self-confidence.

I decided to change tactics. Instead of waiting to be inspired by an idea, I would simply think of one. I went back to my old idea file to see if anything looked promising. Unfortunately, I had used most of the ideas that were worth developing and my older idea file seemed to have vanished. I think it’s on one of my old external harddrive backups but there are 4 of them to go through and I wasn’t desperate enough to do that. Plus I figured if they were that old and I had never done anything with them it was probably for a good reason. So then I tried simply sitting and thinking—usually with a Starbucks to supply some creative juice. I thought about themes I like. I tend to do a lot of child/parent relationships. But nothing was clicking. Now I was getting really worried. I love the thrill of thinking of a new story. When it clicks and the ideas start spouting like a fountain it is so much fun. I wanted to experience that again. I realized, though, that putting pressure on myself was probably not a good way to release my creative flow. I decided to forget about it for now and just relax.

I put it out of my mind until I was faced with a long drive back from Fort Collins. I had driven up earlier in the day for business reasons. On the way back home, I turned the radio on and it was playing a song I had heard on the way up so I asked myself, do I really want to listen to the same playlist again?  No, I did not. I turned off the radio and decided to try and think of a story one more time. And there it was. Fully formed and just waiting for me to listen to my brain. I think my subconscious must have been working on it for months because so many details were already figured out. I’ve never before thought of a story and had so much of the plot done within minutes of the original plot beat. It was exhilarating. By the time I got home I had the whole story figured out and quickly realized I had enough material for a trilogy. But I’ll save that for another blog topic.

I brought this whole idea block up today because once I opened myself to novel ideas another one presented itself to me this weekend. I was having coffee with friends and we were talking current events, politics, movies we’ve seen, books we’ve read and from that conversation another plot formed. This one is not quite as fully formed at the one I’m currently working on, but there was enough there for me to get excited. I came home and spent the afternoon writing up notes about it. I put it in a new folder in my writing file and as I get ideas about it, I’ll add them to my notes. Once I finish the first book of my trilogy, it will be my next project—unless I sell the trilogy, in which case, I’ll be writing book 2 next. It’s amazing, though, that when you tap into that creative area, it keeps producing. I’ll be careful not to turn it off so thoroughly again in the future.

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