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Readers ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Writers bemoan, “I have so many ideas.”  Or, “I’m writing my current story, but I’ve got this great idea for the next one and all I want to do is write it.”

I have learned to shut down the idea factory.

Writers are advised, “Carry a notebook. You never know when you will get an idea, and you don’t want to forget it.”

I don’t write them down for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve shut down the idea factory, and only open it when I sit down to write.
  2. If the idea is really worth anything, it would be worth remembering.

Ideas are everywhere. I have zero fear that I will lack for ideas. I do however fear that the sheer number of them will become debilitating. Or the shiny, fresh idea will distract me from the current work.

Keeping Heinlein’s Rule #2 in the front of my mind helps with this.  If I am adamant about finishing what I start, then my creative mind will shove those fresh ideas to the corner closet, and focus on keeping the current work shiny and fresh.

You Must Finish What You Start.

A simple tool to keep ideas from overwhelming the process.

Back to the reader’s question, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The answer is simple. I get them from the process. Writing regularly does that. I know if I sit down and write… If I sit down with a character in a setting… if I ground myself (and by extension the reader) in the setting with that character… I will never want for ideas. Story will happen.

As an example, have you ever had a dream that was so realistic that it felt you were living it, despite the fact that the people you encounter are people you have never met in real life, and despite the fact that the locales are places you have never been to?  Of course, you have. This is the reason a lot of writers keep a notebook and pen on the bedside table to write down their dreams when they awake. ( I don’t do that either. ) Do you ever wonder where those ideas come from?


Have you ever found an answer?

Probably not.

I think the answer is simple. You put yourself in a position to create those dreams. Namely, you go to sleep… and all of those critical voices that would suppress the creativity in your waking hours are asleep, too.  And your creativity awakes like a toddler put down at the playground. And there you have it, a great dream. A great story.

And that is how it works, if I just sit down regularly to write. If I don’t worry about if it’s any good… If I don’t worry about having a working “idea”.  Just sit down, and follow my characters around. They’ll get in trouble…they’ll do unbelievable things… they’ll probably do things a lot more interesting than real life. It is not my job to pass judgement on those things or criticize or tell them about some really cool idea I have about what they should be doing.  My job is to record them, as if I were recording one of those dreams I mentioned above…like the writer who keeps the pad on the bedside table. Except, I’m doing it real time. I’m recording the dream at my keyboard as it is happening.



Both of my books are widely available, and I would love to have you as a reader.  Universal links:

Everything is Broken


North County Girl

Photo by LED Supermarket on

5 thoughts on “Ideas

  1. I like the notion of recording your ideas in real time. This is something I’d only started doing last year and it’s made a world of difference in whether or not I make progress or I sputter along.


  2. I used to jot down ideas as they came, but I was picking out things like that cool door, or the motorbike that guy was riding. So I ended up with pages and pages of incomplete thoughts. I like the way you think though, I’m going to have to try this remember what’s worth remembering.


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