When You Have No Ideas

One of the questions writers tend to be asked a lot is “where do you get your ideas?” Of course, two other questions are “can you read something for me?” and “can you pass this on to your publisher/agent?” but let’s stick with the question of ideas. Ideas are both the most valuable and the least valuable thing a writer can have. They are valuable because an idea is the seed from which a story grows. They are the least valuable because no one is paying you just for having an idea. It’s the execution that brings in the cash. And few ideas are completely original. We build on the culture and work of those who came before us, even when we think we’re not.

Still, it all starts with an idea. So where do they come from? Ideas grow out of all the things you’ve encountered or heard about in your lifetime. And each of us lives a different life, so each of us has ideas that are just ours. But each of us lives as part of a larger community (even when we’re a bit hermit-like) so each of us has ideas that have connections to the community and culture in which we live. Now, that sounds reasonable, but the process of teasing an idea out of our brain can sometimes be tricky.

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