Where do Ideas Come From?

We’re a society of questioners. We love to ask “why” and “how” and “where”. It’s always good to dig into the reasons behind anything, but with something like writing, that’s like asking a million clowns for makeup tips. It doesn’t really give much insight because all the answers are different.


I’m never afraid to divulge inside details of my creative process. It’s not a secret recipe or a hidden talent. I often don’t know where the hell my story ideas come from, they just appear.


Writer’s block has never struck me. I’m actually quite flustered by all the unfinished ideas that pour through my brain everyday. I may not be able to give anyone the secret to grasping ideas (or running away from all of them in my case), but I can offer some insight as to how I find the best, most vivid thoughts that bud into something tangible.


  1. Repetition: No I’m not saying sing your favorite song 500 times. It’s deeper than that. Our subconscious controls a lot of our creative center. It’s also where the doubts and fears can separate themselves from our work. The subconscious is activated when we perform repetitive tasks that are simple enough to allow our minds to wander. Sewing, crocheting, driving, wookworking: all of the activities that engage your mind while also leaving room for thought are perfect creative aids.
  2. Nature: Roll your eyes and call me a hippy, I don’t care. Getting away from the pressures of the working world means so much (This may not apply to park rangers haha). There is nothing like losing yourself in a hike in the woods or swimming in a secluded lake. Birdsong and sunshine awaken a spiritual creativity that leads many authors to stories that open them up to new ideas. The technological world has taken over so much of our life that we have begun to censor what we absorb. We see so many ads and messages that it can often be difficult to shut out the noise and focus our minds. Escaping to a hillside or visiting a local farm works wonders to strengthen your inner voice.
  3. Background Noise: This may be my favorite, and no I don’t mean crank the speakers and turn up the bass. Television doesn’t count either (unless you are fond of potential plagiarism). Wonder why standing in the shower turns your brain on? The gentle pounding of the water tunes your brain in. It dims the lull and inspires you to think. Your senses open. This ties into the subconscious. Humans lived in nature for so long that the chirps of a cricket choir or the whistle of a windy day has ingrained itself into our very beings. My husband is from Wisconsin, when he moved here to Saint Louis he was unaware of some of the natural sounds I no longer even notice. The cicadas in summer as his favorite. Their constant hum is a reassuring reminder than no matter how many cars honk, no matter who is shouting in the apartment complex, there is an entire world out there that continues to survive with or without our added voices. The soft buzzing fills the background and sets our brains up for more enhanced thoughts.
  4. Random Sleep patterns: Insomnia is common for writers. We often sit up all hours of the night pouring ourselves onto pages wondering if we’ll ever sleep again. Different sleeping patterns effect production. There is something new and exciting about waking up at 2 a.m. and starting a new novel. Sometimes the soft glow of a 6 a.m. sunrise calls for an adventure. There are plenty of afternoons that scream to be written. Routines are fine but for me, it is when I break my lax routine that I find my brain throbbing to tell more. People get bored easily. To keep yourself from getting too comfortable, embrace random writing periods. Sure it’s good to have a pattern for practice, but there is something exhilarating about spontaneity. It refreshes your work.
  5. Alcohol: BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE! (please) There are wayy too many drunken writers. If you can’t control yourself, avoid making it part of your process. When your fears refuse to go to bed, alcohol is a great way to push it aside. Winston Churchill called it “Liquid Courage,” I call it Confidence Juice. Regardless of how you imbibe, becoming dependent on any on thing to give you the ability to produce a piece of writing is never advised. Now with self-control and self-imposed rules, drinking and writing is one of the most pleasurable experiences in the damn world. Writing sober is work. Writing while tipsy or full on drunk is a party. The downside is that you may not type or write clearly. I’m currently pregnant so I’m off all alcohol for a while, but when I wasn’t I allowed a drunken writing session once a week or so. It varied. Sometimes twice a week, sometimes once a month, it didn’t matter. What I produced held more oomph than I had aimed for.
  6. Time Off: Writing hiatuses are torture. It’s difficult to quite. Writing is addictive and it hurts to hold off on ideas. I hate it sometimes, but life gets cluttered. If you work too hard your stories will clump together in a redundant mess and that makes editing a hotter hell than usual. It’s important to take a day off. Hell, I often take off the entire months of June and December. This resets me and reminds me to appreciate what I do. Yes it breaks the “write everyday” rule, but honestly, that rule is a mantra for people who need help motivating to write at ALL.

finger guns

I’m sure plenty of other authors will disagree with me. Even if everything you say is true there will always be that one asshole who disagrees with you. Generalizations work like that. Techniques vary and I’m not an English professor, so if you have other methods, share them in the comments. I’d love to hear what other little lifestyle choices or habits help you share yourself with the world through the art of writing.

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