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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where Ideas Come From

So there's not much to write at the moment. I'm spending a lot of time scouring the internet, finding forums, and the like. Obviously much of this to build a platform, but I'm finding I actually enjoy it. Reading what others have to say on literature, or interacting with strangers on twitter, or asking questions that haven't been thought of yet all have their own satisfaction. I'm enjoying it and don't mind it one bit at all. 

I wanted to write a post on something I've been asked about a few times, and something that I don't really have to think about much--it just happens: where the stories come from. For the past fourteen months or so I have very few ideas for new novels. By very few, I mean I've had three. In the past week though, since I've known I was wrapping up Dead Religion, I've had maybe five ideas. 

It's like my mind knows where the creative energy needs to be going and when it needs to be going there. When I'm writing on a large piece, virtually nothing comes to me in the form of ideas for new work. When I'm done, everything I look at becomes a story. I was walking through the Air and Space Museum, and saw some of the old WWII uniforms. A story hit me at the site of them.

I think, though, that the most important--the strongest stories, for me at least--come from songs. Dead Religion was inspired from Hotel California. The line that says "you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave." That one line spawned a 71,000 word novel. Things changed, and the story expanded in ways I never knew when I heard that line, but the basic story is still here. 

Regina Spektor's Samson is definitely a novel that I'm going to write. It's one of the most beautiful and powerful songs I've ever heard, and made me think about Delilah, the biblical character, in a much different fashion.

My next book came from one line from AWOLNATION: kill your heroes. I'm still working out a lot of shit in my mind about it, but the underlying meaning of those words has a really good story in it.

I can put on Snow Patrol's Eyes Open CD and there is literally a story in every song.

A line from The Killers still sticks with me, but I haven't been able to find out the story behind it yet: they say the devil's water, it ain't so sweet, but you don't have to drink right now.

I'm not sure how my mind does this. I'm not sure if it makes me more or less creative, given that I'm using ideas others have already spun to create novels. There's not a lot I can do about it, either way.

So, according to this one post, I have about 4 novels to write. 

I'm okay with a back list.


  1. Using a small idea from someone else and morphing it into something new is most definitely creative. Think of Steve Jobs. He took tons of his ideas from Xerox, but he turned them into something they never could (or would) have.

  2. Yep, songs. Same for me. A lot of David Bowie. Also Talking Heads. But sometimes instrumental stuff: M83, Trentemoller, Radiohead's "Treefingers." Put those on repeat in my house, and you'll have a bunch of material--or at least some ideas for material--a few days later.