It’s July and time for this month’s authors’ Round Robin. Thanks to author Robin Courtright for setting the topic…
What book (or type of book) are you currently working on? Do you have ideas for future books?
I have an answer to both those questions (see below!) and this month’s topic also made me think about something authors get asked a lot.
‘Where do your ideas come from?’
Creative inspiration is a strange and fascinating thing to me, like a sort of magic. The Greeks thought inspiration came from the gods. I hope scientists don’t ever get to the bottom of how people create. It would ruin the magic. It’s satisfying to think our ideas come by some sort of divine intervention, even though when it comes down to it, expanding on those ideas is down to sheer hard work.
(As famously said by Thomas Edison: ‘Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.’)
Finding creative inspiration
Here are a some of the ways I come up with fresh ideas. These work for me…
- I sit down and write. Sometimes there’s nothing like having to write, and having a deadline, to get ideas flowing. If I have a very rough idea for a story, but don’t know how to flesh it out, I set myself a time limit – perhaps forty minutes or an hour – and just start writing. The problems in the story present themselves, and, because I’m forced to keep writing, I have to find a way around them. Other ideas follow. I have no idea why that is, but perhaps it’s because, in the act of writing, I’m using that part of the brain that comes up with ideas.
- On the other hand, sometimes it’s better not to force ideas to come. It’s OK to daydream. J.K. Rowling had the idea for Harry Potter while stuck on a train, staring out of the window. It’s fine just to do nothing from time to time apart from look into space. (This is where I’ve found a mobile phone and the constant distraction of social media is a real drain on creativity. With the internet, you’re always a click away from being entertained by someone else. It’s a temptation I find hard to resist, and a barrier to dreaming up ideas.)
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Over the years I’ve managed to wean myself away from this one. Worrying about getting things right will only stop you creating altogether. I’m not a naturally confident person, and I’ve found lack of confidence a massive barrier to ideas. Now I genuinely think only of the story, and the characters in it, and I’m far more creative than when I was anxious about things being ‘right’.
- It’s OK to be distracted sometimes. Sometimes your domestic life or your family or your “real” work catches hold of you and writing has to take a back seat, but that’s OK. You need the real world to intrude, because without it, how would you be able to write? Even the most mundane things can later spark off a story. How characters interact over a cup of tea, for example, or how while cleaning the car you found something under the passenger seat. Every single day is full of stories. Just start to write.
- Be receptive to new things. Being curious is something I’ve never struggled with. (My husband might say ‘nosy’ rather than ‘curious’ :) ) If someone asks if you’d like to go somewhere, say yes. A film you might not otherwise have seen, an art exhibition, a trip to the seaside. It doesn’t have to be somewhere exciting. I never get bored anywhere and can enjoy listening to conversations at a bus stop. (Is that nosy? :D) The whole world is there to be explored.
- Steal from other people. David Bowie famously stole ideas like a magpie, but he used them to create something new and made them unique. I’ve taken a scene from a film, or a character from books I’ve read, and made a new story out of them. These characters gradually became my own.
- If you’re stuck on something in a story, just before you go to sleep, ask your brain to help you out and dream the answer. This sounds quite random, but it has occasionally worked for me and is worth a try if all else fails!
And now for the book/s I’m working on. I never like to talk about works in progress, in case I put a jinx on it, but I’m writing a contemporary romance at the moment. I had the inspiration for it while visiting a shop for wedding dresses, and I’ve combined this idea with an idea I had while watching one of my favourite films, It’s a Wonderful Life. It will involve characters from my previous novel, Felicity at the Cross Hotel. I hope I can do them justice.
I’ve also just finished a short story for an anthology I’m putting together with eight other members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The anthology will follow on from our first anthology, Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings.
Miss Moonshine is a character we came up with between us. Nine authors sharing ideas was a brilliant experience. Our next anthology will feature Miss Moonshine at Christmas. I didn’t have an idea at first, and so I just had to set to work to find one. I wanted to bring in characters from the previous story. A nativity is Christmassy, and so I have a nativity scene. And Miss Moonshine’s town of Haven Bridge is near the Yorkshire moors, and so I thought of a shepherd. And by pure chance, as I was checking some facts about sheep farming, I stumbled on this description of how to make a shepherd’s crook…which gave me a great idea!
As for ideas for future books, I have so many! Finding ideas isn’t my problem. Finding time to write them up is what I need to work on. I have a brilliant idea for the start of a novel, but no matter how much I ask my brain to work on filling in the rest, I still haven’t come up with the rest of the story. Yet.
How about you? Are you creative, and if so, where do your ideas come from? Do you ever struggle to find ideas, or do you have too many to flesh out?
I’m looking forward to finding out what ideas the other authors in the Round Robin are working on. Please check them out in the links below!
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1EW
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com