Where Do Ideas Come From?

Writers are often asked, “Where do your ideas come from?”
Having studied the psychology of creativity in college, participated in research, taught creative theories in workshops and classrooms, etc,  I could give you a list of technical answers that would include explanations about brainwaves, neural pathways, and early childhood development.  But today, I decided to point in a different direction – one not often discussed:

New ideas appear as a result of our having acting upon other ideas. In other words, the creative act itself produces children.

You’ve heard the saying,”she has a fertile imagination.” Ponder that.  I suspect it means this: she creates; therefore she spawns more ideas upon which she can act or create, which leads to even more ideas.  Fertile.  Experience bears this theorem out. When I write a story, more story ideas flow into my mind. The more graphic work I do, the more inundated I am with artistic images. When my friend quilts, she gets more ideas for quilts. When a musician works out a new song, he gets ideas for another new song.

WHY? If you’ve attended one of my workshops you’ll remember I explained that our brains are highly responsive to repetitive acts. Repetitive acts reinforce neural networks, so that the act can be repeated with more efficiency.  A more basic way of explaining this is to say– that which we do, we tend to do more of, and get better at doing.

So, my dear friends, whatever it is you want to do, as Shakespeare said, “Act well the part.” Creativity [idea production] is like so many other things in our lives; we get good at it by doing it. You can read about riding a bicycle, but you only get good at it by hopping on and turning the pedals.  Generating ideas is the same way, DO IT, act on an idea, and you will beget more ideas. Act on those, and ideas will become more plentiful and better.  There are things we humans do to short-circuit this marvelous process, sabotage ourselves, but we will discuss that another time. For today, let’s just look at the positive aspect of idea production.

If you want to write. Write. Ideas will come. We live in an amazingly fertile universe – it overflows with life and ideas. It is almost as if the master creator is searching for someone who will act upon ideas so more ideas can be funneled to that person. I believes this so much, that I’m not worried about where my next story idea will come from, I’m more concerned about whether I will live another hundred years so I can fit all the ideas into books. The irony is, if I lived an extra hundred years I would need two hundred more, because the minute we act upon those visions we have already been given, more ideas arrive.

The real question isn’t where do writers get our ideas? The question is how can we possibly write all these ideas in one lifetime?

Check out Ruby Slippered Sisterhood – Sharon blogged about New Years Resolutions for Pantsers, and she very kindly quoted moi.