Tag Archives: ideas

Sidling In

So. Um. *scuffs toe of shoe*

Yeah. It’s been a while since I blogged. A week, you say? A whole week? Couldn’t be.

(It is).

I wish I could say something like ‘well, I’m terribly sorry, but when Brad and Angie call you at the last minute and invite you to their chateau for a mini-break, what idiot would say no?’ or ‘apologies for my absence, but I was abseiling down the Burj Al-Arab’, but in reality – hard as it may be to believe – I was doing neither of these things.

Photo Credit: fizaco via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fizaco via Compfight cc

Life got in the way, folks. Simple as. I had more medical tests. I had some tiredness. I had busy stuff going on, all of which is very boring for anyone who isn’t me. It did, however, mean that I was away from my desk a lot, and not exactly in the right mindspace for blogging. I do heartily apologise. My schedule is going to be out of whack for the next few weeks, but I will try to be better – though I do beg your forbearance.

I did some reading, though, while I was away, and I also did some writing. Not as much as I wanted, but some. I had a day during the week with a lot of down-time in the middle, so I sat with a notebook in a cafe and worked through a vague-ish plan for the rest of my current WiP, gathering ideas – and in at least one exciting moment, realising that a rootless, context-free idea I’d had several months ago would now fit quite nicely indeed into my current work, with a few tweaks. You’ve just got to love moments like those, and it proves once again that no idea should ever be wasted. Even if, like this one, it comes at you out of the blue with absolutely no explanation or lead-up, like a blob of gelatinous something-or-other that just splats into your brain from on high. Write it down. Keep it safe. Let it percolate. Eventually, you’ll see something or hear something that’ll spark off a thought, which will spark off another thought, which will lead to a fully-formed idea so awesome that your heart will start to pound, and which you’d never have had if you hadn’t kept hold of that original odd little spark of inspiration.

You know you’re onto a good thing when your heart starts to pound and you can’t write fast enough to keep up with your brain. Those are the moments we live for, right?

After all this feverish inspiration, I wrote a pitch for my current WiP (a useful thing to do, fellow writers, when you want to help an idea coalesce), and emailed it off to my agent without too much thought. ‘Here’s something I’ve been working on,’ I said. ‘It’s not finished, by a long shot, but I just wanted you to know what I’m up to.’ Immediately, I regretted it; she’ll be too busy, or she’ll have far too much else on her plate right now what with judging X competition and accepting submissions for Y event and attending at least three book fairs simultaneously with the aid of holographic technology, I told myself. Really, though, I was afraid she’d email back doing the equivalent of holding my pitch between finger and thumb, looking disgusted, and saying: ‘This? This, here, is what you’ve spent months working on?’ And then she’d wash her hands of me completely.

But she didn’t do that.

‘Sounds great,’ she said, by return of email. ‘I’m excited to read the draft, when it’s done. Here are my questions.’ And she proceeded to ask me probing, useful, interesting things about the outline I’d sent, making me at once understand that a pitch I’d thought was entirely clear had, in fact, skimmed over some things to an unacceptable level and that I had a lot more thinking to do about at least one major aspect of my plot and world-building. In the course of answering her questions, I also realised something else: simply thinking about these questions and formulating answers to them was really helping me get a handle on what I’m trying to write about. (See how good my agent is? She teaches me even without trying to).

I’m closing in on 30,000 words with this draft. The going is slow, but I’m enjoying it. I’m back in a pseudo-historical fantasy setting with characters who are brave and funny and up for adventure, and world-threatening technology which must be harnessed for good, and crafty baddies, and all manner of questing and travelling and discovery, and it’s truly where my heart belongs. It took me a long time to get here, but I think I’ve managed to fetch up in just the right place.

Happy fourth of July weekend to those who celebrate, and happy weekend to those who don’t. Whatever you’re doing, remember to be good, be happy and spread as much love as you possibly can. This poor, tired old world needs it more than ever.

A Bucket of Cold Water From the Universe

Sunday. Normally a pretty quiet day, yes? One for lounging about, not doing much. Watching a bit of TV. Having a late dinner. You know the drill. Yesterday, for us, was one of those Sundays. We were marking a personal milestone in our lives, my husband and I, and we pledged, weeks ago, that we’d spend the day together doing whatever we liked.

As it turned out, ‘whatever we liked’ happened to be noodling on the internet (him) and reading a Terry Pratchett book (me) while listening to a succession of CDs (because we’re elderly) and sighing, occasionally, at how wonderful it all was. Yes, we are the original party animals.

Anyway. Late in the evening, we decided to watch a bit of TV. While channel-hopping, I came across a programme on one of the BBCs (I really do love the BBC, you know), which was about an esoteric, odd and even somewhat creepy topic, but one which fascinates me. Better than that, though, was this: the topic forms the central pole of an idea I had for a book, about a year ago, which has been buzzing away in my lower subconscious ever since. I won’t say I’d forgotten about it, because I hadn’t, but I guess I’d sort of put it away. Shelved, you might say. This is a bit silly, this one, I told myself. Unlikely, you know? 

Except, as I found yesterday, it isn’t all that silly at all.

Photo Credit: Iwan Gabovitch via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Iwan Gabovitch via Compfight cc

The programme I watched showed me that not only was my proto-idea still fascinating (to me, at least), because I was gripped by it the whole way through, but that there are actually a lot more links between my fictional idea and the actual history of the world than I’d thought. The main thrust of the plot I’d half-dreamed of involved political machination and manoeuvring at the tip-top of society, all made possible through the nefarious deeds of a mysterious lady who is, for reasons unknown, kidnapping children – and the reason, the very specific reason why the lady needs to kidnap children (which I’d dismissed, sadly, as being too far-fetched and stupid), I have now learned, would actually work.

Or, at least, the programme gave me back my enthusiasm for the idea, to the extent that I grabbed a pen and an old envelope and as I sat watching the TV, I was scribbling notes. Names of real historical figures, dates, places. Technical terms. I will admit to a wide and slightly manic grin creeping over my face as I realised: I might have something here. This idea, which plopped into my head one day as we drove cross-country to visit someone, and I had neither pen nor paper nor even my phone to make a note, could actually – one day, with work and research and a lot of fleshing out – become a real story… well.

It was a bit like a bucket of cold water being poured down the back of my collar. In a good way. In a way that told me: don’t be so quick to dismiss your ideas. Don’t be so quick to tell yourself something is impossible. Life is always teaching me that things I thought were impossible are actually easy-peasy, if a bit of mental ingenuity and elbow grease are applied. It also woke me up to the very important realisation that no idea is worth junking, at least straight away. One never knows the hour nor the minute that a perfect thread to connect that tiny idea-let with another will flit into your mind, making an intriguing – if slightly unlikely – whole. Perhaps it will be a TV programme which you’ll happen upon by chance while searching for something else, and it will rivet you to your seat while your mind fills up with images. Perhaps it will be something you read. Perhaps it will be a half-heard snatch of conversation, or a phrase that fits exactly into a hole in your imagination. Whatever it is, you won’t know it’s there if you’re not constantly open to receiving it. So, put down your mental umbrellas, and wait for the cold dousing from the Universal Bucket.

It’s a bit shocking, I’ll warrant. You may want to dance around the room shaking out your arms, and your teeth might chatter, and you may not be able to think straight for a while afterwards. But worth it? Oh, yes.

The Coldness of the Mind

Last night, I had a dream in which the whole world was iced over. I looked out my front door and a creeping, crackling pattern, like grasping pale fingers, was coming right for me. It had spread its way across the green, where there were no children playing, and made me feel like an ant crawling across the face of an iceberg. I slammed the front door shut, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the grey-blue ice, hard as steel, wormed its way in around the hinges and through any gap it could find.

It wasn’t a pleasant dream.

I’ve been thinking about ice a lot lately (due, of course, to the setting of ‘Emmeline’), and that’s probably why my mind went to a cold, dark place when I was lost in dreams. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that ice – at least, the sort of ice we get here, the dark insidious kind, the kind which no footwear can outsmart – is one of my biggest fears. This winter, however, my little island has been battered by Atlantic storms instead of Arctic vortexes, which is equally dreadful; most of the south of Ireland is underwater at the moment.

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney. Image sourced: rte.ie

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney.
Image sourced: rte.ie

So many people have lost everything – businesses, homes, property – and so many of them can’t purchase insurance, due to where they live being prone to flooding. Sometimes I don’t understand the world. Surely people who live in places like that need more help, rather than less?

Am I the crazy one? Wait – don’t answer that.

I have been out of sorts this week. My head is distracted, my thoughts are ragged, my energy levels are through the floor. ‘Emmeline’ is sitting beside me, not-so-neatly printed and annotated, from last week’s editing sessions; I have three or four small changes to make before I’ll be ready to leave it to percolate for a while. Then, once I’ve checked it again post-percolation, it will be ready to send out into the world. I hope to get to those final edits today, and then it’ll be on to the next thing.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned this before, but – last week on Twitter I noticed an author excitedly promoting their newly published book which not only had the same title as one I had been planning, but took as its central plot motif something which I had come up with in the middle of last year, and which I was quite excited about. This, surely, has to be something nobody’s ever thought of before, I told myself at the time. This is interesting and unusual and could turn out to be something great! Little did I know that the other author was probably doing their final edits on their book at that stage. So, that was another of those bittersweet moments where you realise you’re having good ideas, but just not quickly enough. Of course I’ll be interested to read this other book when it’s published, and I wish its author well. However, I really hope this ‘idea duplication’ thing stops happening to me, one of these years.

Anyway. My mind feels gripped with a cold hand this week. I hope it relaxes its hold soon, because I have a lot of work to get to. I have another idea I want to flesh out, and I want to revisit ‘Eldritch’ and try to do a rewrite, and I need to start picking up with my submissions to competitions and magazines, because I’ve completely let that slide over the past few months.

I think I need a calendar, and an action plan, and someone to tell me to pace myself… Or maybe just a holiday.

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong - rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket! Image: dailymail.co.uk

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong – rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket!
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Have a good Thursday, one and all.

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

There’s a possible TMI warning on this morning’s blog post. If you can’t handle reading (not very graphic) details of a (not very gross) minor medical condition, then I’d recommend you return to munching down your cereal and slurping your coffee, and catch me tomorrow instead.

Are you going? You’d better go now, because I’m about to start.

Seriously. It’s seconds away, now. See you later.

Ticktickticktick... Image: lssacademy.com

Ticktickticktick…
Image: lssacademy.com

Right. Time’s up. I’m jumping in.

Still here? Interesting.

Okay. So, I may not have mentioned before that I have dermatitis on my palms. Sometimes, it doesn’t bother me at all, and my hands are as smooth as the proverbial baby’s behind, and all that; other times, though, like now, it erupts into red hell and itches so badly that it feels like I’ve minced up a few Carolina Reapers and rubbed ’em into my skin. It can take me totally by surprise, too – yesterday evening, my hands were a little itchy, but I thought nothing of it. However, I woke up this morning and I’d turned into a crab-clawed witch, and so, it was out with the steroid cream and in with the self-pity and whimpering. Several years ago it got so bad that I had to take sick leave from the job I was working in at the time because I pretty much couldn’t use my hands for about a week, and that, my friends, was not fun. I am nowhere near as bad as that at the moment, of course, but every time I get a flare-up, I think of it.

I’m not really sure what causes it. I’m told it was originally an allergic reaction (but I don’t know to what), and it seems to flare when I’m stressed. It’s an indicator of stress that I might not even be consciously aware I’m feeling, actually – everything seems okay this morning, but my hands are burning so I can assume something’s going on somewhere inside me. As well as being monumentally irritating, though, it also makes things like typing quite difficult, which is handy (no pun intended) when typing is all you do, all day every day. I feel a bit like fat-fingered Homer.

Image: dailydot.com

Image: dailydot.com

It’s easy to take your health for granted, and to just assume you’ll be well – physically, mentally, spiritually – when you wake up every morning to start your day. Sometimes, though, it’s not as straightforward as that. I’m not even talking about myself, here – I mean that in a general sense. I’m not suggesting a bit of dermatitis is equivalent to a proper medical condition, or anything like it. My hands aren’t painful this morning, really (there have been times when they’ve literally looked like stigmata, bleeding and raw, which is terrible), but the itch is such a distraction that it is making concentration difficult. It’s sort of cruel, because I spent all weekend keeping far, far away from ‘Tider’, and even trying not to think about it; as a result my brain is bubbling with ideas this morning about how to solve the problems I’ve been running into. It’s also bubbling with the urge to tear the skin off my palms, though, so there’s a definite conflict of interest there.

Rawr! I am dermatitis. Feel my sting! Image: en.wikipedia.org

Rawr! I am dermatitis. Feel my sting!
Image: en.wikipedia.org

So, today will mostly be spent feeling itchy and resisting the urge to scratch, and (doing my best attempt at) rewriting the end of ‘Tider’ in accordance with a flash of inspiration that occurred to me as I was going to sleep last night. My new plan for the book’s conclusion solves a huge plot wrinkle that I’d been trying to work around, will be significantly shorter and (hopefully) a lot more interesting.

I’m also a lot more enthusiastic about it this morning than I was on Friday, so that’s good.

Right, that’s it. I can’t resist the temptation to dunk my hands in ice-water any longer, so I’ll leave it there for now. Have a good day. It’s Monday, don’t forget, so please do be kind to yourself. See you tomorrow, when – with any luck – my hands will be healed and calm and not driving me round the bend.

Growing a Story

Image: strawberryindigo.wordpress.com

Image: strawberryindigo.wordpress.com

Ah! *Deep breath* It’s good to be back.

I hope your weekend was full of glitter and cocktails and dancing, and that it’s now a pleasantly fading memory. Mine was wonderful – full of family, great food and lots of laughter – and, as well as that, it was almost entirely computer-free. I think it’s necessary, every once in a while, to step away from the screen.

That doesn’t mean my mind didn’t live in stories, just because I was away from the computer, though. Of course.

Sometimes it seems like your brain works overtime to create story ideas when it knows you have no way of taking note of them. You’re in the middle of a meal, perhaps, or on a long car journey, when the Best Idea Ever whacks you between the eyes. When that happens, you can find yourself repeating the idea over and over to yourself until you manage to find a pen and paper, or your phone, or whatever it is you use to keep track of your ramblings; hopefully, by the time you get to do this, your idea hasn’t lost all semblance of coherence, and still sounds like the Best Idea Ever. Also, hopefully, the people who have been trying to hold a conversation with you while you’ve been trying to hold a whole world inside your head aren’t too peeved at your apparent absent-mindedness.

While we’re on this topic: I think it’s important to stay faithful to these ideas, the ones that come at you out of nowhere. If something strikes you as exciting or interesting, then don’t let your enthusiasm for it fade while you search for something to make a note with. I fear many a wonderful idea has been lost down the dark crevasse of that particular form of self-doubt.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here... Image: gutenberg.org

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here…
Image: gutenberg.org

It’s funny how the human brain can talk itself into most things, and out of nearly everything. Have you ever had the experience where a word you use all the time suddenly starts to look ‘wrong’ or weird, like you’ve misspelled it or are using it incorrectly? It happens to me all the time. Common words, if repeated often enough, can eventually seem like gibberish, so it stands to reason that the more familiar your brain is with something, the more nonsensical it can seem. If this starts happening with your ideas, and you start to convince yourself that they’re no good just because you’ve been focusing strongly on them for a while, then try to bear in mind that all you’re doing is talking yourself out of your own process of inspiration.

And that, I’m sure we can all agree, is a bit silly.

Sometimes, though, a story can grow in unexpected ways. It can grow slowly, out of a single image or a fleeting impression, and years can pass before anything changes. It’s not a bolt from the blue, leaving you scrambling for a pen; it’s a far longer and more gentle process, like a flower blooming inside your mind. Something like this happened to me at the weekend, and I’m quite pleased about it. It feels like a warm scarf, which I can’t stop tucking gently around myself. I feel like I’ve found the next step in a long-unsolved puzzle, and that a story seed I’ve been nurturing for a long time is a tiny bit closer to coming to fruition.

For years now, I have had a character in my head. He stalks the corners of my consciousness, raising a scornful eyebrow at me every once in a while. ‘I will have a story for you soon, I promise,’ I keep telling him; ‘yeah, right,’ he seems to reply. I can see him, tall and skinny and besuited, his face long and his smile beguiling, darkness flowing off him like radiation. He is a blood-chilling character, and he deserves a story to match.

Well, I think I might have found the first step in the tale of my unsettling man.

It all happened because of something I misread in a book at my in-laws’ house. The book was a compendium of local folklore and mythology, and the words I read were Irish. They were ‘Féar Gorta’, which means something like ‘Hunger Grass,’ or ‘Famine Grass’; to my eye, though, they first appeared as ‘Fear Gorta,’ which means ‘Man of Hunger,’ or ‘Man of Famine.’ The only difference between the word ‘féar’ and the word ‘fear’ (pronounced ‘fair’ and ‘far’ respectively) is the diacritical mark known as a ‘fada’ which appears over the ‘e’ in ‘Féar’; this little mark changes the word completely, though. As I read the words which I thought were ‘fear gorta,’ my slender, dark and smiling man popped into my head, and took a bow. I thought: Wow. So, now I know what he is. He’s a Man of Hunger – or, at least, a version of one.

A Man of Hunger is, apparently, a folkloric figure in Ireland, a wraith who appears at your door seemingly on the point of starving to death; you’re supposed to show him mercy, and give him whatever food you have to spare. If you do, you’ll never know another hungry day, but if you don’t… well. If you don’t, hunger itself will never be far from you. ‘Féar Gorta’, or hunger grass, is a patch of innocent-looking grass which has dried up and died, but if a person walks over it they’re afflicted with dreadful, life-threatening hunger and must be given something to eat immediately or face death; the legends say that patches of hunger grass sprang up at the places where people dying of starvation during the Famine fell and were left unburied, or where the fairies have cursed the ground.

Ireland, eh? Cheery place.

Image: musingthetrauma.blogspot.com

Image: musingthetrauma.blogspot.com

Lots of legends like this sprang up in Ireland after the Gorta Mór, the Great Famine, and even though they’re no longer believed, they still have a powerful cultural resonance. I love stories which take elements of folklore and weave them into new and interesting stories, and which bring ancient ideas back to life, and I’m quite delighted with my little misreading, the one which brought me from Hunger Grass to Man of Hunger. It has given me – ironically, perhaps – a little meat to put on the bones of my mysterious character. I already have a story beginning to weave itself around him, and it’s exciting to watch it grow.

Of course, another thing the mind does is give you a good idea for your next project while you’re still working on your current project. It will be a while before I get to actually write any of this, but until then, my subconscious mind can churn away at it. Hopefully by the time I’m preparing my first draft, the story will flow with ease – but if this sly and smiling man inside my head is anything to go by, nothing will go to plan…

 

 

Looking into the Abyss

As some of you will doubtless be aware, I am a person who is currently working on a novel. I am almost 58,000 words into that novel. Earlier this year, I wrote another novel (it came in at about 62,000 words, fact fans), and late last year, I wrote a third – the behemoth that was the first ‘Tider’ – which weighed in at over 150,000 words. I have written nearly 300 blog posts, many of which come in at around 1,000 words apiece.

That’s a lot of words, for one person, over the course of one calendar year. I’m not saying they’re good words, but still. I wrote them all. That counts for something. Right?

Image: wordmedia.co

Image: wordmedia.co

There are times when I sit and think about my writing, and where I want to go with it. I know I love it, and I don’t want to stop, but one thing that bothers me very badly is: what will I do if I reach a point where I really, truly don’t have anything left to write about?

Everyone knows this quote: ‘And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.’ This piece of wisdom from Friedrich Nietzsche has always interested me. It makes me think about how easy it is to allow yourself to get stuck into a particular way of thinking, and how hard it can be to turn your mind around when it over-focuses on something. Certain thoughts have that ‘abyss’ quality – you create a sort of ‘feedback loop’ inside yourself. You feed the abyss, and it feeds you.

If your abyss holds candyfloss and rivers full of rainbows, perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing. However, if you’re like most people, your abyss will tend to be full of nothing except darkness, and a howling wind will be licking its way around the sharp, pointed rocks that line it all the way down, like teeth around a gullet.

A writer’s greatest fear is lack of inspiration, I think. I tend to get a little worried when I read interviews with other writers where they talk about their ‘boxes’ full of ideas, or I see they’ve written hundreds of books already, or they mention that they have too many ideas to ever make use of during their lifetime. I get ideas, too, but not like that. Mine don’t come to me in a torrent, leaving me grabbing frantically at them in an attempt to salvage as many as possible before they get washed away. It’s more gentle than that – they come, dropping slow, into my brain every once in a while, in a completely unpredictable way. I have a list of ideas saved on my computer, but I don’t have hundreds of them, by any means. I have some, and I hope to have more eventually. I guess I’m not one of these people who is overrun with inspiration, so blessed by the Muses that they can’t get out of bed in the morning because their brain is too full; every time a flicker of an idea suggests itself to me, it’s a cause for celebration. I work hard to keep my eyes and ears peeled for ideas, and I work hard to craft them into sentences and – sometimes – into stories or even novels. It’s not an easy thing.

My abyss laughs up at me, in all its emptiness. It says ‘I have nothing. There’s nothing in here! Go on, have a good look. Shine a light into all my nooks and crannies. You won’t find anything, trust me.’ The abyss I can’t stop myself from looking into is the death of my inspiration. It’s the abyss of fear that, one day, the ideas will stop coming, and that if this does happen, I won’t have any idea what to do next.

Image: onthebridgeway.wordpress.com

Image: onthebridgeway.wordpress.com

I hope to finish my current book in the next couple of weeks. I already have my next project lined up, and when I finish that, I intend to redraft the book I’m currently working on with a view to getting it ready to submit. I have a book doing the rounds at the moment, and who knows but I’ll pick up some agent interest from that. I’m keeping busy, and so far this has stopped the abyss from chewing me up and spitting me out. I’m not sure if I can keep doing this forever, though. Once all my current projects have been completed, I am very afraid that there will be a hole in the road, or a wall of nothingness across my path. I dread the feeling of ‘not knowing’ – not knowing whether any of what I’m doing has a point, or whether any of it is worthwhile, or whether there is a way to bridge the gap.

I have to keep remembering a few truths about life. The first truth is: ideas are everywhere, and the only way to miss them is to stop looking. The second is: nobody really knows what they’re doing. Some people are better at pretending they do than others, but in reality we’re all just doing our best to get along. The third: there is no such thing as an inescapable abyss. The fourth: help is always there when you need it.

The fifth: the world is packed full of wonder.

Happy Friday. Keep your eyes on the road ahead, and don’t let anything knock you off your stride.

Image: pdpics.com

Image: pdpics.com

 

Good Idea Bad Idea

If, having read the title of today’s blog post, you’re now thinking of the Animaniacs, all I can do is apologise. Or, I suppose, say ‘you’re welcome’, depending on your opinion of the aforementioned ‘lovable’ creatures. If you have no idea who or what the Animaniacs are, don’t worry. It shouldn’t impede your enjoyment of the post.

Anyway. On with the show!

Image: mysobersunday.wordpress.com

Image: mysobersunday.wordpress.com

So, me blogging about ideas is nothing new – have a look here if you’d like a blast from the past – but today I’d like to think about the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ideas, in the hope it’ll save someone, somewhere, a bit of time and energy.

Of course, I have to start out by saying it’s important to be constantly on the lookout for new ideas. I’m also now having second thoughts about whether it’s helpful to classify ideas into ‘good’ or ‘bad’; in essence, all ideas are ‘good’ ideas. Perhaps it’s better to describe them as ‘mobile’ or ‘stationary’ ideas, in other words ones you can do something with, and ones you cannot. For example, at the weekend I walked into a bookshop – not exactly unexpected – and was immediately struck by something weird. My attention was dragged away from the books, if you can imagine such a thing, by low, throbbing, strange-sounding music which sounded like a chant. I found it very soporific and quite bewitching, and immediately an idea began to slither into my mind. Just as I was about to grab my phone to start tapping notes into it, I realised a couple of things.

First, I realised that this idea I was having was a bad (or, perhaps, ‘stationary’) one. It was an idea which wasn’t going to go anywhere and wouldn’t ever become the basis for a strong story, and because of this, I put my phone away and let it fade. I also realised that the reason I knew this – that the idea wasn’t a usable one, I mean – was because it was based on a movie I’d seen, years ago. As I kept thinking about it, scenes from the movie actually started playing inside my head. I had forgotten the movie when I’d first heard the music in the bookshop, and the primal power of the idea behind it had grabbed my brain. When I’d thought about it, however, the truth became apparent – this idea wouldn’t work not because it was a ‘bad’ idea necessarily, but because it was a ‘stationary’ one; it had been used before, and not by me. I still remember the sensation of walking into the shop and feeling like I was walking into a spell because the music was so strange and enticing (it turned out to be Leonard Cohen, fact fans, just being played at such a low volume that I didn’t recognise it for several long minutes); that sensation, that feeling, may well end up being used in a story of mine. But the main idea – a boy being bewitched in a strange old bookshop and being sucked into a story and/or a story coming to life – is, I realised, somewhat of a cross between ‘The Never-Ending Story’ and ‘Inkheart.’ Unless something else occurs to me, something completely new and unique which I can weave into this basic idea, then this particular story seed is going to remain dormant.

I mean, come on. How would I ever top this? Image: sufirangga.blogspot.com

I mean, come on. How would I ever top this?
Image: sufirangga.blogspot.com

It’s important, I think, when you feel the rush of inspiration wash over you, not to always go with the first idea that comes to you. Chances are, you see, that the ‘idea’ is not your own. Our brains are filled with all the things we love, all the time – all our favourite books, movies and TV shows, the stories which have shaped our lives. They are at our fingerprints as readily as our memories are, and you mightn’t even realise that this is true until you start trying to map and keep track of your own ideas. If you don’t encourage your brain to have second and third and fourth thoughts about the inspirational things you encounter every day, you may run the risk of repeating ideas that have already been had, either by you or (more likely) someone else. There is so much newness and wonder out there, so many ideas ready to be discovered, that it would be a shame to use and re-use the same bunch time and time again.

It’s important to say, too (particularly in light of yesterday’s blog post), that every idea a person has is going to vary slightly from any idea that has gone before. Everyone will sprinkle a little newness over any idea they have, and that’s wonderful. Sometimes, however, you’re going to have an idea and you’ll be really enthusiastic about it and you’ll have a whole story arc planned out – and then it’ll strike you. ‘Oh yeah,’ you’ll say to yourself, sadly. ‘That’s the plot of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’, isn’t it? More or less?’ Then, you might have to take your story and chuck the whole thing out, and that would be a shame. Particularly if you’ve been working on it for a while and you have lots of words written.

Not that I know from personal experience, or anything. I’m just using my imagination here, trying to picture how it must feel to realise, too late, that an idea isn’t really yours. Of course.

'Oh, really? That sounds highly illogical to me.' Image: pipeschool.blogspot.com

‘Oh, really? That sounds highly illogical to me.’
Image: pipeschool.blogspot.com

If the idea of having an idea that’s inspired by another work of art doesn’t bother you too much – and perhaps it shouldn’t, really, because that’s what a culture is about, after all, works of art influencing and reflecting one another, to an extent – then think about this: if you always go with the first idea to strike you, then you might risk writing stories full of clichés and overused tropes. If it’s the first thing to strike you, chances are it’ll be the first thing to strike most people. And who wants to be just like everyone else?

One final caveat: this post is, like all my posts, based entirely on my own experience. I’d love to hear another take on this, particularly if you fancy telling me I’m talking a load of old rubbish. What are your thoughts about ideas, inspiration, and popular culture?