Greetings, all! I hope you’re all staying cool in this scorching heat.
Folks, I want to talk about ideas and inspiration this month. Every author has heard the question “Where do you get your ideas?” at least once from friends, family, or strangers. Well, there’s a simple answer to that: The same place as you!
Oh, you want more?
Ideas come from literally anywhere and everywhere. They can come from brainstorming sessions or simply invade our everyday thoughts or dreams. Believe it or not, the idea for my most popular book series, The Weller, came to me while washing the dishes. As I stood there, my hands pruning in the dirty dishwater, I started to contemplate water and how much we take it for granted. For most of us, water just flows forth from pipes in the walls or comes packed in convenient bottles from the supermarket. I found myself pondering the various methods for procuring water in the wild, and the gaps in my knowledge worried me. Having grown up in the 90s, I was bombarded by environmentally conscious media, and being raised by Baby Boomers, I was also very aware of the Cold War and the fears surrounding it.
This line of thought took me down a rabbit hole of various doomsday scenarios until my thoughts boiled down into a single question: “In the event of a global catastrophe, who will we depend on for clean drinking water?”
A desolate, savage world began to form in my head, populated by desperate, resourceful people. Sandstorms swirled and abused engines roared, and a figure stepped out of the chaos. That man’s name was Matt Freeborn… a weller.
That night, I began writing the first of many stories featuring the ginger-haired, water-gathering vagabond, a violent and terrifying short titled “Land of Plenty.”
For me, inspiration has come from many places, including dreams and flat out boredom, but usually it all comes down to a single question for me, and writing is my way of answering those questions to satisfy my own curiosity. My notebooks are filled with cryptic questions, many still unanswered but promising to keep me in business for decades to come.
This month’s topic came to me a couple weeks ago after I did a signing for a local bookstore. A woman approached my table in front of the shop and began flipping through my books. It was clear from our conversation that she wasn’t really interested in anything my books or I had to say, but I don’t mind chatting with fellow book lovers. Finally, she asked how long I’d been writing, and I handed her a copy of Vengeance for My Valentineand told her I’d started writing the earliest draft of that book as a senior in high school over twenty years ago.
As she flipped through the book, skimming the pages filled with blood, gore, sex, and vampires, she asked, “Did you ever stop and ask yourself, ‘Why am I having these thoughts?’”
I’ll admit, the question rendered me speechless, and my friend who had come to support me and browse the local shops was visibly offended. I felt as though I was on a psychiatrist’s couch, being analyzed. To my relief, the woman soon moved on, but her words stuck with me for the rest of the day.
It’s something most creatives encounter at some point in their career, especially working in the speculative, fantasy genres. I’ll admit it irked me, but I didn’t let it penetrate my armor; I’ve been in the game far too long for that.
In her song “Circus,” Britney Spears sings “There's only two types of people in the world, the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.”Unfortunately, many who fall in the latter category look down on those who supply their entertainment, not realizing that without creatives and their crazy ideas, their nightly couch warming would be a lot less… well… entertaining.
I’ll close with a message to all creative souls out there: Never be ashamed of your ideas. Not all ideas are gold, but they all have merit, and even those that don’t initially pan out often lead to new, even better ideas. It’s up to you to take rough rocks and put your own special brand of polish on them. Creativity is what makes life worth living. So get your butt in that chair and put your fingers to the keys. Pick up that brush, instrument, or tool. Be inspired by the world around you and worlds unseen.