I’ve been consistently asked two questions over the years. 1) Where do you get your ideas and 2) how do you organize your books.
Where Do I Get My ideas?
I could give you a mystical answer – something like, “I wander up on a mountain top and they just come to me.” Or, on stormy nights when the lightning is flashing, I fly kites. Or, I could give you the truth.
The truth is simple. I ask one question, and I ask it regularly. I have a habit of starting every morning with a cup (or three) of good coffee and a notebook. I swing my socked feet up onto my desk, make sure the mug and pot are close, and open up a notebook to write whatever happens to be on the top of my mind.
But, after I’ve cleaned out the mind-garbage (and there’s always garbage no matter what anybody else tells you) I ask myself a simple question.
That’s it. I ask “What if and answer the question in an unedited way.
- Butterflies were predators
- Elephants could fly
- Butterflies attack elephants and they have aerial battles
- Fairies were real (What? They’re not?)
- Fairies train butterflies to bring home dinner.
You get the idea. I don’t make up the rules. I don’t censor and I can tell you I get some really, really weird ideas that never make it past the WT…..? Stage. But I don’t care. I don’t share them. I simply write them.
I have a rule that I have to get ten answers every time I do the exercise. No more and no less. I try to do the exercise every day but when I’m in the middle of a book series (like I am now, I tend to slack off the “every day” rule.)
How many of these see a word processor? Not many. Maybe one in 50? Maybe less or more but I really don’t count.
I once asked the silly question, “What if fairies are real?” (Well, duh. Of course they’re real. But what if other people knew that too? And what if fairies and humans disagreed about how the world should be run?)
It’s that simple and it’s that tough. There’s no censoring allowed. The stranger the idea, the better. These notebooks are never seen by anybody else.
If I can’t tell myself about the strange ideas that run through my brain, who could I tell?
I review all notebooks when they’re filled up. Copy the good ideas into a new one – that helps me remember them – and then pitch the old notebook into the compost bin. At the end of that new notebook, I repeat the process of copying and adding to a new notebook.
It’s surprising how many of the previously copied story-ideas don’t make it into three successive notebooks but disappear into the compost pile with the rest of the organic matter. (One should always treat ideas as valuable – and being recycled to go out and feed flowers is a mark of respect rather than being simply tossed into the useless garbage bin.)
And that’s how I get my ideas.