“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question writers are often asked. And while ideas burst into life anywhere from family stories to personal experience to newspaper articles, an idea does not become a piece of writing without silence and time to daydream.
Just like a seed, an idea needs to be left alone to germinate before it will grow. It is not so much a matter of figuring out the direction for a story or even a poem, as it is a matter of allowing the story to bloom on its own.
From childhood I have entertained myself by making up stories in my head. I amused myself this way while riding the school bus and doing chores on our family farm in southern Illinois. I have always enjoyed long walks, and I have daydreamed on walks in Chicago, Costa Rica, Colorado and London. There is something about the kinetic movement that stimulates imagination.
Lately, however, I find that I often have to purposely unplug myself to let my imagination go. I leave the iPod at home and I turn off the radio in the car (with the exception of the classical station). I avoid having the TV or radio on at home “just for background noise.”
Quiet time is essential for any artist, and this includes writers, because we are artists.
If you really are stuck for ideas, try some writing prompts. Every Friday, Mary Jo Campbell posts some great ones on her Writer Inspired blog. Other resources are The World’s Newest Writing and Creativity Portal.
Play a game of pretend with your children, and stimulate their imaginations as well, with the TV turned off, of course.
Daydream – and it will carry over into your writing.

Starting Over Again on a Snow Day

I am constantly starting over, regrouping, reorganizing and trying to simplify. This applies to to writing as well as my life in general.
This morning I drove to my substitute teaching job, only to be told that the district had decided to close the school for students, meaning no work for substitute teachers.
I returned home with an unexpected opportunity to work on some of the micro-steps I have been thinking about. Since I work at a local high school most days, I need to break up my writing tasks into small manageable chunks. Finishing a “chunk” gives me a sense of satisfaction and the motivation to do more.
This morning I finished the first draft of a book review for Suspense Magazine. Ka-ching! Job done! I worked on a task from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, to spark my creativity. Ka-ching! I wrote some more on a short story I am working on based on my memories of riding the school bus when I was growing up. Ka-ching! Not a bad morning’s work!