- by Laura Resnick
If we gave a first-prize for the question that people ask writers the MOST, the winner would be, without a doubt, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Every writer hears this question, and we hear it a LOT.
Until recently, I thought people always asked me this simply because they’re trying to show polite interest or make conversation.
It was only recently that a longtime non-writer friend of mine explained to me that, er, no, people ask this because most of them are curious, and the reason they’re curious is that the majority of the population does not walk around with story ideas in their heads.
I had no idea! Honestly.
I thought the reason I’m a writer is that, unlike most people, I bother to write down, rewrite, revise, hone, tweak, and polish my story ideas, and then I bother to spend months and years submitting them to publishers, through rejection after rejection, until someone offers me contracts for them.
And I assumed that other people aren’t writers simply because they don’t do that.
I honestly had no idea until quite recently that there was anything remotely unusual or interesting about getting story ideas. I vaguely assumed that most people got story ideas regularly. I had always sort of supposed it was a normal, standard, typical way to think.
Apparently, I was quite mistaken in my assumption, and many people do not live with story ideas taking up a substantial portion of their brains. (Who knew?) And so they wonder how writers think of all those story ideas… in much the way that I wonder how a musician can play by ear (wow!), or a ballerina can dance on her toes (ouch!), or a mathematician can understand (let alone create) numerical formulas.
This is also, I suppose, why non-writers mistakenly assume that coming up with story ideas is the hard part of writing books. Actually, I have more story ideas than I will live long enough to write (and, statistically, I’m decades away from death), and I get more story ideas almost every single day; and I’m not unusual in this way for a writer. Ideas are the easy part of writing. A surfeit of story ideas is among the thing that gradually led many writers to try writing in the first place.
However, writing down my story ideas, then rewriting, revising, polishing, honing, and tweaking them until I’ve got a novel in which tens of thousands of strangers will be willing to invest their hard-earned money and their hard-won free time… That’s the hard part of writing books.
For a detailed look at where writers get their ideas, check out the “Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?” page of my website at www.LauraResnick.com, where I and various guest-writers talk specifically about where we got the ideas for some of our books and how we developed those ideas into publishable novels.