Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Following The Rainbow - Linda Strachan

‘Where do you get your ideas?’

It is probably the one question most people ask when you say you are a writer. There are times when I have to resist the temptation to reply with that old quip… ‘There is a little shop, just down the road, called IDEAS R US….’

But in reality I truly believe that it is not the right question. Perhaps we are writers because we have ideas that make us want to write? But I am not sure writing has as much to do with the ideas themselves as what you do with them. I personally have no problem with ideas except that I sometimes think I have too many chasing about in my head.

I see ideas for stories in everything around me. It could be something someone says, or the way they say it - possibilities in the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘whys’ of things that happen everyday.

Sometimes the ideas are just crazy flights of fantasy; ideas that take wings, or sometimes fangs and scary warts; little scraps of delight that could grow into a tale with only a little encouragement. What I find the most troublesome is deciding which idea is the rainbow I should be following – not necessarily because I am expecting it to lead to a pot of gold (although it would be good if it did) - but which idea is going to be the one that I should spend time developing into a story?

Another problem is deciding what kind of a story any particular idea might belong to. I think it is akin to a sculptor who says that they are just freeing the shape that is lurking in a piece of wood or stone. The idea is the seed the story will grow from, but is it a picture book, a novel or perhaps a poem.

Someone once told me they jot down any stray ideas on a note of paper and keep them in a shoebox, so that when they needed to write something new they could rummage about in the box which was a treasure trove of ideas. I think it is an excellent idea - with only one proviso. Make sure the idea you note down makes sense!

I have recently discovered an odd sentence scribbled in a notebook because I thought it was the germ of an exciting idea which I didn’t have time to consider properly at the time. Re reading this gem, this unpolished sparkling star that was so enticing that I felt the need to record it for later consideration, I discover that the sentence means absolutely nothing to me now. Far from causing the frisson of excitement that the original thought obviously provoked, it sits there mundane, boring and ultimately perplexing.

But it is probably just as well because even writing this I am beginning to think of an idea for a story about a stray sentence in a notebook……

1 comment:

Damian Harvey said...

It's a funny question really isn't it, and sometimes I feel it's just one of those questions that people feel they should be asking. I don't know what sort of answer people expect and I never really know if they are happy with the answers I give. But I don't mind and it's certainly preferable to the "I've got a good idea for you..."