The question most writers dread is the one they are asked the most often. “Where do you get your ideas?”
Now I haven’t been asked that question yet, but I’m hoping that someday I will be famous enough that someone will. When that day comes, I WILL HAVE AN ANSWER!!
I get them in the shower. It’s usually when the water is hottest, and steam fills the bathroom. In other words it’s when a computer or tape recorder would corrode, paper would wilt and when ink would run.
I get them when the lights are out and I’m so close to asleep that I’m not sure if I’m even awake. It’s when my legs are half under the covers and half walking a woodsy trail I walked when I was a child. In other words, it’s when I can’t possibly get up and fire up the desk top.
I get them when I’m walking, far from home and only when I have no mobile device, pen or paper. It’s when a mockingbird or noisy brook is telling me a story with the kind of magic that will break if I breathe too hard. In other words, it’s when I am absolutely certain that I can take nothing from my experience but memories.
It’s also usually raining.
So when I’m in the shower, or about to fall asleep, or walking by a brook, I do my best to remember the brilliant idea.
And I usually forget most of it.
Muses, being frisky sorts, love giving writers – or at least wannabe writers, glimpses and teases, without any possibility to them getting the entire picture down in print.
Or maybe they just want us to be clean, well rested, and properly exercised (but not exorcised.)
No – I think they’re just frisky.
Muses are allergic to the practical. Muses want to haunt the writer, not give dictation. They want you to forget your dentist appointment on Tuesday, and that you need to make a deposit in your checking account by 3PM to prevent the check you wrote to the Mystic Order of Arachnid Vigilance (my favorite civic organization,)
So now you know why writers step out in traffic, zone out at dinner parties, and wear outfits that were obviously chosen at random. We’re paying attention to another world, a world of ideas populated by practical jokesters. Our laptops are crammed with thousands of files – most of them shorter than a paragraph or two, waiting for the moment with the muse will relent and give the rest of the story.
But that rarely happens. Usually the rest of the story is constructed by the badly abused and poorly dressed writer, building his superstructure of paper-mache onto the muse’s tiny foundation of gold.
And it usually sucks, and gets relegated to the “needs work” file which always far exceeds the “ready to publish” file.
And you hear the muse giggle.
Some day a sixteen-year-old at a dinner in one of those rare moments when I’m paying attention will say to me, “I’d want to be a writer, but I’d love to know where you get your ideas.”
“Would you; would your really?” I’ll ask.
And I’ll giggle in conjunction with a chorus of muses dancing around my head and braiding my nose hairs.
Misery loves company, so they say.
And sometimes, as in the movie, Stranger than Fiction, the muses really mess us up.