What Came From an Idea

Last week I did my best to give an answer to that perennial question: “Where do you get your ideas?”  At that point, I was still seeing if the idea would become a story and I promised to give you folks an honest report.

Inspiration and story

Inspiration and story

Well, I’m happy to say that the process was a productive one.  As you may recall, I actively wrote right up until Friday evening.  Then I decided to use the weekend to think my way through a few elements that hadn’t quite jelled.  Now, some of you may be thinking that this is in violation of my claim not to outline.  It isn’t.  I was musing, not outlining.

Also, this story had rather special circumstances.  Perhaps you may remember that for several months I was involved with an art contest my friend Scot Noel decided to sponsor on his website.  (See WW 1-29-14, “Cover Art Contest,” if you want to refresh your memory.)

My contributions involved contributing the second place prize and promising to write a short story based on one of the winning pieces.  The story would be made available as a free download through Scot’s site.  I also ended up participating in a series of chats with Scot about the contest itself.  Our emphasis in these chats was on how we, as writers, reacted in a different fashion to the judges (all of whom were visual artists).  You can see the art and our discussions at www.SFFcontest.com

Anyhow, the picture I chose to write my story around was the first place winner, “Apocalypse Book” by Hugh Edby.  A lot of the musing I did over that intervening weekend involved going over the picture with the mental equivalent of a magnifying glass, seeking small details that I might work into the story.  When I settled down to write again, the story moved along quite briskly for several pages, then I found myself slowing down.

Shutting off my computer, I wandered off and started reading about the various members of the first version of the psychedelic rock group, Jefferson Airplane.  I learned a long time ago that trying to force a story is about as useful as banging my head against a wall and just about as painful.  (See WW 8-11-10, “Walking Away From It” if you’d like a bit more about this.)  What I have found is that if I distract myself – by reading or doing routine chores – often I come up with an answer.

This time the answer came pretty promptly.  I was moving into a sad part of the story and I didn’t feel like going there.  I meditated, but felt the story would lose its heart if I came up with different material.  So I kept on writing.  The Muse rewarded me for my perseverance, coming up with an ending I didn’t expect at all…

I’ll leave it there.  No spoilers.

I’ll be sure to let you know when the story – its working title is “Born From Memory” – is available.

Now what next?  Well, Wanderings on Writing needs a final go-over, then it’s off to be converted into an e-book.  When that’s done?  I have a few plans…  Now, however, the garden produce is taking over my countertops.  Time to go fuss with it.  Doubtlessly while I do so, I’ll be thinking about stories.

I’m curious…  What do you other creative people do between projects to recharge?  How do you court inspiration when you’re just a little stuck?

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6 Responses to “What Came From an Idea”

  1. Heteromeles Says:

    There’s an article I read years ago, about a reputedly Japanese martial art that claimed to be over 1,000 years old, but, long story short, may have been cooked up in the States, amalgamated from a bunch martial arts that were being taught in a multi-ethnic immigrant community in the 1950s or so. And no, I’m not going to name the school, because oddly enough, it turns out that quite a few martial arts come about this way, where someone who learns how to fight really well comes up with a mysterious teacher or two and a long pedigree to make himself look like less of a brawler and more of an enlightened warrior sage. After all, the purpose of a martial arts school isn’t so much to teach people how to fight (especially now), it’s to form a community that will support the teacher and his disciples, and communities work better when there’s some good stories involved. And as the military has learned, it really doesn’t take very long to teach someone to fight effectively.

    Anyway, the school’s grandmaster talked about how, when he was faced with a difficult problem, he’d look at it backwards, and according to him, the answer would always present itself. I don’t know about always, but for me, it’s often useful to look at a creative problem backwards, or upside down, or to otherwise find some way to invert it, reverse it, or just look at it the “wrong” way. That may say more about my contrarian personality than about anything else, but that’s my Great Secret, as learned from a Grandmaster who I’ve never met in my life.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Perhaps we should call your hypothetical grandmaster “Mirror Image”?

      • Heteromeles Says:

        He’s not hypothetical, merely anonymous, and that because it makes a better story. The whole issue of the “authenticity” of his school bugged me, until I found out that quite a few, perhaps most, martial arts schools have similarly questionable origin stories. There’s the covert slave art of capoeira that most likely came from the street gangs of 19th Century Bahia, the tai chi invented by a Taoist hermit watching a snake and crane fighting that was apparently invented by a farm village to defend their shipments from bandits, the xingyi that was supposed invented by the famous general Yue Fei that appeared centuries later being taught by an unbeatable dwarf who taught the first two public masters, and so forth.

  2. Scot Noel Says:

    Very nice blog entry. I tend to plot whole stories by shoveling the snow, mowing the grass, or washing the dishes. That part of my mind that is just below consciousness tends to like to make up stories, and I just need to set it to work with a kind of “mental request.”.

    At some point, when I’m not trying, it comes back and says “what about the ghost of a dinosaur that appears to the paleontologists who dig it up, and they are intelligent robots?”

    Of course, they can’t all be made intelligible stories, but they all amuse me and help keep me entertained.

  3. dnprice01 Says:

    Can’t wait to read this story!

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