Ideas are everywhere… or so we’re told. Telling a writer ideas are everywhere is like telling a single woman that men are everywhere. Sure they are, but if you’re looking for your soulmate, you’re going to want a specific age range, geographical location, personality, martial status (that would be single) and, you know, attracted to you. As a writer you can be inspired by anything if you’re open to it. But hitting on a good idea, never mind a great one, is tough.
The only way I get a great idea is by coming up with a whack load of bad ones first. Maybe that’s why so many of us are hesitant to start. We know so much of what we create is going to be crap. The trick is to never settle for the ideas that are only okay. Just because they’re not bad, that doesn’t mean you should include them. (This holds true for the soulmate simile as well) Only include the best, the very best ideas in your work. You’ll know them when you find them (see simile again).
If you’re really stuck, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of books on writing exercises. Stream of consciousness writing is a favourite for some, but I prefer The Obsession List. This exercise was given to me by the Dramaturge and Artistic Director of Nightswimming Theatre, Brian Quirt and involves writing list of what you’re obsessing about right now… The weather? Chocolate craving? A crush? The future? Chose one of the items at random and write about it.
If people ask where your ideas come from, may I suggest quoting author Neil Gaiman’s answer which, let’s be honest, is totally awesome.