Ideas R Us

“So, where do you get your ideas,” is a question that gets lobbed at many writers or creatives.  I order mine online. It’s much easier than driving over to the idea market, plus if I order more than $25 worth I get free shipping. I do feel guilty about the excessive packaging, though.

Ideas are all around and ripe for the picking. I store up as much information as possible like a hoarder fills a house to overflowing.  Some is useful, much is not.  Did you know that the diameter of a regulation basketball hoop is 18 inches?  I do.  I don’t know why, I just do. It earned me a wedge in Trivial Pursuit once back in the 1980s and I don’t even play or follow basketball.

I take all that information and jam it into any available nook and cranny. It might be useful someday.  For instance, the whole basketball hoop thing came in handy just now. I also observe. I take note of stuff. Like when low, angling, morning sunlight hits my face from the side I can see my own eye reflected largely on the lens of my glasses. I listen to the way pea gravel on a garden path crunches under foot and it reminds me of someone eating Corn Nuts. I question things like why do I often hear the lamenting call of a mourning dove hooting its breathy plea morning or evening but rarely at noon. I can recall how my skin prickled and itched under the hot sun, alcohol evaporating from my pores, as I was lying miserably hungover on a poolside lounge over 20 years ago. However, there are days when I can’t remember to take out the garbage or why I walked into the kitchen.

Unfortunately, these little bits of input are not neatly stored away in some mental file cabinet stuffed with meticulously labeled neuro-folders.  Picture more of a big cardboard box or compost bin where everything gets unceremoniously dumped. You should see my desk at work. You should see my workbench at home.  You should see the inside of my head.  All are a disorganized mess.

This is good and bad. Bad because being disorganized tends to make life just a tiny bit more difficult.  I’m used to it, it’s no biggie. Besides, I am married to a very organized person, which is a big help. The upside is that all of these little tidbits bump up against each other mingling and folding back on one another taking on some of each other’s flavor, coalescing like a marinade. They steep and react giving birth to new and different tidbits, which recombine into yet more permutations.

When the proverbial planets are all aligned, when the gods or muses are in agreement, when the gears mesh and synapses fire in just the right order, ideas are born. When everything is clicking there is an unmistakeable energy.  There are nights when I feel like I could stand out in my back yard and light up the whole neighborhood. There are other times when the glow feels only as strong as a single firefly, but there’s a glow nonetheless.

There are big ideas and little ideas, good ones and bad ones. I think that we all have them and provide safe harbor for them but some people are simply more adept at noticing and harnessing their ideas—connecting the dots. There is art in everything and while you might be a genius with numbers, I would have trouble reciting my times tables (especially the sevens times table). It’s all a matter of how and where you focus your energy. So that’s my answer on where my ideas come from.  Oops there’s the doorbell, gotta go.  UPS just delivered my latest order of inspiration.

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illustration by Andy Black

4 comments on “Ideas R Us

  1. I haven’t received my inspiration in the mail yet. Shoulda done the 2 day shipping…

  2. 😀 Nice one!
    I tend to have a very similar outlook, except I quite like the jumbled folder of encyclopedic nutiness I have to be like that. Sometimes it means I have to look extra hard for that specific bit of info but most of the time it allows my stories to take a life their own as my subconscious starts tossing out tendrils all over – like a superhero who can generate unlimited tentacles/arms that stretch like mr. fantastic! 🙂
    Of course, some things (like characters and main plot) become neatly filed away for each venture, but the things that went into them always go back in the grab-bag when I’m done.

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