Where do you get your ideas?

There’s a great essay at Neil Gaiman’s blog about creativity, and where his ideas come from.  Read it.  It’s terrific.  Then again, I think that almost everything he does is.

It’s reassuring; it’s good to hear a well-established writer talk about the ideas that don’t work, about the ideas that do, about wrestling them into a shape that’s palatable for public consumption.  It’s good to know that having to struggle, sometimes, doesn’t mean that I’m completely unfit to be a writer.

It’s an interesting exercise, too, to try to figure out where and when you get your best ideas.  Mine tend to come when I’m between activities, or trying to work out a problem, or at the edge of sleep.  And, of course, when I’m in the least convenient place to write them down, like driving in heavy traffic, or giving my son a bath, or stir-frying snow peas.  And often, I lose them as quickly as they come.  I’ve taken to repeating a word or two to myself, over and over, as a mnemonic to try to hold onto them just a little longer.

Sometimes I suffer from a dearth of ideas, nothing to say, and no way to say it if I had something. It happens when I’m too stressed out by life, too busy with the mundane details of motherhood, marriage and mortgage, to generally fried to write.  My favorite quote from Gaiman’s essay:

My idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper. Or a blank screen. And me, staring at it, unable to think of a single thing worth saying, a single character that people could believe in, a single story that hasn’t been told before.

It is.  Hell, that is.  But if I force myself to write, to put words on paper, even if they don’t really mean anything, eventually my creative side will become frustrated at being so sullen and puke something out.  And if I keep the creative side happy and busy, it doesn’t stop spewing them out.  Not all of them are good, mind you, but they’re ideas nonetheless.

So.  Where do you get yours?

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2 Responses to “Where do you get your ideas?”


  1. 1 Bronach April 19, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Things just pop into my head. But it doesn’t happen often, so I HAVE to remember then when they do come. Right now I have several story ideas written on my arm…

    Is that normal?

  2. 2 David King July 23, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Neil Gaimen?
    I just started reading him. Finished Anansi Boys yesterday, and am trying to find a library that has American Gods.
    Before now, all I’ve read of his is Good Omens, which was co-authored with Terry Pratchett. A definite read, if you have the time.
    Thanks so much for the link, I didn’t realize he had a blog.


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