It is that time once more! I could have sworn I just did this yesterday this last week went by so fast. Sometimes it seems there’s not enough time in the day anymore.
I chose two questions today that are asked fairly frequently in e-mails that I receive. The first one is,
where do you get your ideas?
That’s a good question, and I’m not sure I know the exact answer. I’ve always had a pretty good imagination. As a child I read a great deal, everything from sci-fi to the World Book of Knowledge (yes, I’m that old). I’m very fortunate in that most of what I read will stick with me, at least for a while, and it’s possible that all of that reading helps my imagination work like it does.
It honestly seems sometimes as if there’s no way to have an actual ‘original’ idea anymore. Everything you write is simply a new twist or turn on an old idea or theme. I try to work around that and come up with truly unique ideas, but I don’t always succeed. And sometimes I do have a great original idea but I just can’t find a way to make it work in a story line. Once in a while you just have to give up and move on I suppose. I hate doing that to be honest, but sometimes you simply hit a brick wall that won’t come down no matter how hard you slam your head into it.
When a notion comes to me I’ll write it down. Then, even as I’m doing something else my mind seems to always be turning that idea over, looking at it from every angle I can think of. Sometimes I’m able to turn that into a story, and sometimes I can’t. But in all honesty, I never know where the next idea will come from. I’ll give you a for instance that’s a bit of a spoiler.
Even though “Friggin’ Zombies” has yet to be released, I’ve already started a new Zombie novel based on youngsters in my own family. The idea popped into my head and wouldn’t go away, so now it’s already several pages along as I work to flesh out the characters and the plot. The idea that gave life to this new story was as simple as ‘how well do you think ‘so and so’ would do in the Zombie apocalypse?’
Which led me to evaluate the young people in my own family, which led me to the conclusion that they would probably do okay, since they’re all rough and tumble and can shoot the wings off a fly (and that’s only a slight exaggeration).
So that’s a peek into my thought process, such as it is. I admit that sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense, even to me. I go through a lot of paper though sketching outlines that never amount to anything, 🙂
The second question is one I’m sure all writers get from time to time, and it’s fairly simple; how do you find time to write?
You don’t. You make time to write. You have to decide if you want to write or not, and then make time to make it happen. That means you have to listen to the game on Saturday instead of watch it. It means you catch up on your favorite TV shows when you’ve got a writer’s block instead of watching it every week when it’s fresh.
You have to prioritize your time. You learn to carry a notebook and a pen/pencil everywhere you go because you never know when a good line or idea will hit you, and if you don’t write it down you may forget it later. I’ve lost many a good one-liners due to lack of a writing instrument.
There are times when you don’t want to write. You want to watch the game, you want to read someone else’s work, you want to catch a movie with your spouse or take them to dinner, but. . .you write instead as long as the words are flowing. If you don’t, then you won’t make it.
The thing is, it gets easier to do as you go along. Maybe it’s a habit you get into or it’s simply a state of mind that you acquire as you mature as a writer, but it becomes less of a challenge to ‘find’ time to write. And once you have a book or a magazine article in print, that’s about the best motivation you’ll ever imagine for ‘finding’ time to write more. If you want to write, then you have to make time to actually write.
And whatever you’re doing, write. You may write two hundred pages of something that will never see the light of day and think it’s a complete waste, but it wasn’t because you learned something about your craft as you wrote it. Maybe you learned how to better describe a character’s traits or actions, or perhaps how to better lay out a story line or introduce a new story or character. Whatever it might be, you can just about be sure that somewhere in that two hundred pages that you may despise as a waste of your time, you learned something that’s going to make you a better writer down the road.
So don’t think of it as wasted. If you have to have a category for it, consider it ‘practice’. Whatever you’re doing in life, you have to practice in order to get good at it. Writing is no different. It’s work, and it takes dedication and discipline, both of which are as important as any kind of ‘natural’ talent because if you don’t have the discipline to do the work, then you’ll never make use of that talent.
I’ll end today’s session with this word of advice to anyone who wants to write; DO IT. Make time, sit down at the desk or wherever you choose to work, and just start hammering away. You may hate that first effort, and you may still be hating at the tenth effort, but you’ll be better by then, too.
Tell your story. Only you can.