A writer, any writer, hears one question above all; “where do your ideas come from?” I imagine that the non-fiction writer points to the world around her and answers, “From reality, from current events…” or the like. The financial writer gets to say, “From the numbers,” and the technical writer might say, “From the schematics…” whatever that means.
But for the writer of fiction, and fantastic fiction like the comics I’ve written, there is no simple answer to satisfy the curiosity of someone who’s never tried it. In fact, other than to say, “from everywhere,” I don’t really know where my inspiration comes from, it just does. I used to answer that my ideas came from a subscription service in Dixon, IL, which sent me 50 ideas and a bill every month. The truth is, most writers don’t make the kind of money that service charges, and the quality of the work of those who can afford it doesn’t inspire confidence.
Ideas are a product of imagination, in combination with an open attentiveness for all kind of information; events, news, people, incident, emotions, etc. Anything and everything you experience or observe gets stored and may someday be processed into a story idea–or be used to flesh out an idea. And, though I don’t mean this in a plagiarizing way, everything one sees, reads and hears can inform and inspire the imagination too.
Given my current venue, I’ll be honest and admit that coming up with grand and grandiose plots for a comic book is easier than coming up with what to write here for the blog. Here, imagination is a lesser player, and I can’t hide behind extraordinary characters and events. Here I have to be myself, speak as myself, and, hopefully, say something interesting. And, no, this isn’t the “I don’t know what to write, so I’ll write about not knowing what to write” ploy. I used all of those thoughts 40 years and 1,864 essay questions ago.
The fact is that I don’t have trouble finding things to write about here, at least so far. I can no more explain where ideas and their attendant substance come from when I write here than I can explain where the plot of an alien invasion comic book comes from, but I’m finding my way. I may not know exactly where the ideas come from, but please God, keep ’em coming. But the fact is, so far anyway, I sit down, I think of a broad topic, I stew on it for a few moments…and then I open myself up and just write. Thank God the inspiration shows up (such as it is). Like many things, the key is trust; trust your ability, trust your determination, trust that the ideas will arrive. As simple and as incredibly difficult as that.
A good friend of mine who has been blogging for a year or so, noticed that I posted two or three entries on the same day and he cautioned me, humorously I think, to save those and dole them out a day at a time in the future–bank them against the day I’m running a little dry. There may come a day like that, but I’m not worried right now that the dry spell will last. Somehow this is working, I’m finding inspiration, getting things said (maybe not very deeply yet, but I’ll get there), I’m being faithful to the work, and I’m happier about writing than I’ve been in a while.
A writer never knows where the next idea will come from, all he can do is trust, and get to work.