I understand that this is often a question writers who do workshops get asked when they are giving said workshops, but it seems to me a question asked by somebody who can’t think of anything else to say. Either that, or by someone who doesn’t get a lot of ideas.
There is nothing wrong with asking a question because you couldn’t think of anyting else—at least you’re participating. And there’s nothing wrong with not getting a lot of ideas—God made all kinds of people and fewer-idea people are usually much better suited to making the practical elements of the world succeed than us creative types.
I guess it seems like a silly idea to me because I have a brain that generates lots of ideas from out of nowhere. Quite often I can just sit down at the page, start to noodle around and something comes out that, with some work, will be a story idea.
I don’t read the papers or watch TV for ideas. I have never used writing prompts, except in a class. I don’t brainstorm or mind-map.
There’s no formal process I use. If I were to put it in physical terms, ideas seem to form in my brain stem and then work their way up into the frontal lobes. From there, they fall out onto a piece of paper.
I saw a show about guitarists the other day in which Jimmy Page said ideas just come from “the creative spark.” That’s a pretty good way of putting it.
Of course, I have had some advantages that have made me a good, idea-generating writer.
I had a lousy childhood that’s tremendously helpful, because it’s given me this odd neurotic psychological energy that transforms old pain into new ideas. The same goes for a difficult adolescence and early adulthood.
I have an introverted personality, so I don’t talk a lot, and yet I want to say many things, so a lot of that ends up in writing ideas and actual writing. Introverts also are comfortable doing the sort of staring into space that often gives birth to new notions.
I’m well into middle age, so I’ve gotten enough perspective and help by now to realize that every idea doesn’t have to be great or even good; that helps them flow more freely.
So, I’m neurotic, too quiet for most purposes and old. Who would have guessed all those things would have given me a better idea fountain and made me a better writer? Funny how all that stuff that might have been so bad has turned to good.
I am grateful to a beneficent universe. I think I’ll go stare into it for a while.