Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas? ~ Revisited…

For anyone who happened on this post by mistake, I put a cool music video at the end.
Please don’t tell the folks who actually read the post that it’s for them, too :-)

Back in February I wrote a post called Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas?. The post may or may not be valuable but the conversation in the comments really got interesting.

I hope some of you will read that post and its comments so you can become the scouts for the territory this post is revisiting.

I want to add a few notions to my ponderings about where writers find ideas and, if the gods of blogging allow, perhaps the comments on this post can recall and carry forward what folks began exploring back then–especially if we get a few scouts to help us in our wanderings…

A few of the comments back in February touched on writers finding their ideas in the lives they lead–essentially, right in front of their noses. While it can certainly seem that way at times, I’m going to step out on that limb I keep weighing down with my own ideas and suggest that even what seems to come from in front of us is actually coming from deep inside–somewhere about six inches behind the nose and seemingly buried in the black hole that leads to another dimension some call the soul.

For the truly brave readers, I’ll link to a page about some of Plato’s ideas and another about some of Jung’s concepts.

O.K., now I’ll wait for the scouts and brave ones to carry out their missions………


Alright, let’s carry on.

Look! There’s a writer right there, sitting at the computer desk writing on a piece of paper. Let’s peek over their shoulder.

I walked to the store. Strange lady there. Seemed kindly and normal till I looked in her eyes… Weird. She seemed to be damning me, calling me out on what I haven’t done for the kids, making me wonder–ok, she’s a witch but only uses her power to uncover what people are hiding from themselves. It feels like a judgement when she trains those violet eyes on you but she only wants you to realize your hidden strength, only wants the best even if if means a time of suffering through–

No, she wants no suffering and what looks like damnation of you is her own suffering, not being able to stop the manifestation of her power, her gift…………………….

O.K., I cheated.

I made the example adhere to my theory that even what seems like an idea from outside actually lives and breaths with what we add to it from inside.

But then, plenty of sane psychologists would say that everyone does this to some degree. Writers just can’t seem to help focusing on the process–taking what happens around them and infusing it with what-ifs and I betchas and spinning tales and knitting plots.

Then there are the writers who research various topics and use the fabrics of history as their launch pad. [mixing metaphors like that is one tactic some writers use to make their everyday minds jump the track and spin out yarns that glow in the dark]

Then we find the writers who go deep into the cave behind their nose and pull out whole worlds glimmering with unrealities that illuminate our lives with hope and courage, making our own dreams blossom and flourish.

Like almost all my posts, I don’t intend to lay down any rules or make up any musts. I want to incite. I want to prod. I want to tease out your own ideas; and, I pray you’ll play along and tell me the effect my words had on your own remarkable mind :-)

And, one last kind of writer, sitting alone with just their thoughts–full of characters they wish were real, that they’re working hard to make real. To that writer who can’t seem to let themselves crawl out of their cave and find a kindred soul, here’s a video with musicians from around the world, singing a song just for you:

Comments anyone?
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39 responses to “Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas? ~ Revisited…

  1. Karla Telega March 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I don’t think that I could create something out of thin air, or tap into some mysterious external pool of thought. I’m sure that I have untold riches based on experiences, conversations long forgotten, dreams etc. swirling around in my subconscious. James Scott Bell refers to consulting his “boys in the basement” for inspiration. For me, it seems that I need some spark in the here and now to ignite the creative process. That spark opens up the subconscious, releasing fuel for a more conscious creative process. My conscious takes those kernels and spins off the what ifs and what’s nexts that bring the story to life.


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      I was going to include a few of the concepts from those links to Plato and Jung but my muse held me back…

      Very basically, that pool of thought has forms and shapes and ideas and concepts and characters (archetypes) and animals and plots and whatnots, ad infinitum………


  2. Jaleta Clegg March 4, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Terry Pratchett has an interesting concept for his Discworld novels – inspiration and ideas are little glittering particles that sleet through the universe looking for a receptive mind. That would explain why so many people seem to get the same idea at about the same time.

    Personally, I can find a story idea in just about everything. People I see, magazine articles, tv shows, and just daydreaming “what if”. If you can stay in touch with your creative side, you can find story ideas everywhere.


  3. Gwen March 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    I’m gonna go with what “Karla Telega” said. I draw on past experiences.


  4. Darcia Helle March 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I think I have mulitple personality disorder and the voices in my head are real people telling me their stories. :)

    Okay, so that’s probably not true. But it feels that way. For me, writing almost always starts with a vivid character. One quick scene, like a 15-second video clip, will pop into my head. I’ll see this person doing something, hear him or her speaking. Then I follow and see where it all leads. I don’t know where those blips come from. Hence, the MPD factor.

    Occasionally an idea will stem from something I’ve heard, a conversation I had or a concept that interests me. For instance, the book I’m working on now stems from a dream my father had. As he was telling me about it, I got a vague concept for this book. But, before I could even begin to consider writing it, I had to find a character. I had to let the concept marinate in my mind until Max popped out and said, “Hey! This is my story!”

    Yes, okay, now the entire world knows I’m crazy. :))


  5. Darcia Helle March 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    What a fabulous compliment, Alexander! I like your explanation much better than my insanity plea. :)


  6. Maria Savva March 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I’ve always kind of thought along the same lines as Sting. I read something he said about writing songs, and, for me, I think it applies to writing stories and novels:

    “I don’t think you write songs. They come through you. It’s trusting that they exist out there and you have to be the transmitter. For that you need a certain amount of mental purity. Yoga is just a different route to that same process. You’re taking something from our higher selves and putting it to use in normal life, I think. Does that make sense?” Sting.

    I don’t do yoga, but I definitely feel that I’m connected to some other source when I’m writing. Almost as if the story is being told through me… sounds odd, but that’s the only way I can describe it. Now everyone if going to think I’m crazy, Darcia, LOL


  7. Darcia Helle March 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Maria, I love that quote from Sting. It does sum things up perfectly. I still vividly remember that feeling when I was working on my first book. I didn’t feel like it was coming from me at all. Trying to explain that to others made me sound certifiably insane. Apparently I am not nearly as crazy as I once believed. Good to know I don’t have to worry about padded cells anytime soon!

    Alexander, do write that short story about respectig a writer’s sanity! We’ll include it in the upcoming BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology!


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm


      Darcia, would that I had the time…

      What with writing blog posts that don’t come from me and doing pre-publication for my soon-to-be-published work that didn’t come from me, I sadly don’t have time to write that story that wouldn’t come from me :-(

      You’re pulling back a bit from promotion these days. Do you have time to give it a go??


  8. cmmarcum March 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    First of all, I really enjoyed that Youtube. Thanks.

    Well…um, I usually wear aluminum foil on my head, so I don’t get any space particle ideas. As you know, Alexander, I prefer short stories, so I’m practically on red alert 24-7 to find inspiration. Also, I like to take everything to the extreme edge of my imagination, often going beyond the acceptable range–you have no idea.

    The idea for ‘Suing a Deity’ began one day when I was trolling around and came across a bland and bitter poem raging against the Goddess of Love. This love angst made me laugh, although it was intended to be funny and I thought this would be better as a comedy.

    The beginning of ‘The Antique Shop’ came when I was watching a commercial on TV and cursing a woman who was pouring a toxic brew down the toilet to make it sterile. I said, ‘One day you’ll be drinking that crap.’

    ‘Litter Bugs’ began after a walk in the park. Noting all the trash, I envisioned a future where litterbugs were immediately judged and eliminated by a group of rednecks, who enjoyed their jobs. Don’t know if I pulled that one off so well, but I did feel better. And it goes like that, so yeah, maybe stories do come to me…


  9. Simone Benedict March 5, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Should we talk about Jung again, or no?


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 5, 2011 at 1:20 am

      Sure, Simone, talk about Jung…

      I linked to him in the post and tomorrow I’m gonna write a bit more about him :-)


      • Simone Benedict March 5, 2011 at 1:32 am

        Oh dear! Now I’ll have to review Jung tonight in anticipation of your post tomorrow. :-)

        Really though? In your post you said “sane psychologists agree everyone does this to some degree” or something like that. First, is sane sane psychologists an oxymoron? Second, do all people think as writers do? My experience says no. Honest question, Alexander.


        • Alexander M Zoltai March 5, 2011 at 1:43 am

          Don’t sweat a review, I’m only gonna do a Jung 101…

          All I said was sane psychologists agree that most folks do this to some degree but writers focus on it to a greater degree. Then, there are the poor folks who try to block the flow from the Unconscious completely which is impossible. If you try to block it instead of dealing with it, the energy will still find its way out and usually in a way that upsets many apple carts…..

          So, most people don’t think the “way” writers do but they have and use, to some extent, the creativity that writers work to tap into on a regular basis…


          • Simone Benedict March 5, 2011 at 1:54 am

            Whew, only Jung 101…

            Now that’s interesting. Upsettting apple carts I do see. Wait though, most people do what now? Sorry, I just find it fascinating how non-writing people or non-artistic people process the world. OH MY GOSH! How do they?


            • Alexander M Zoltai March 5, 2011 at 6:43 am

              Sorry I’m getting this response back so late–I was in the virtual world, Second Life, working on a deal to get this blog and my Book’s Site together on the same domain name :-)

              So, I may not write the 101 post today–it’s 1:30am here–but, it’s basically this way:

              Everyone has a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. The conscious mind does what most people are used to as their “mind”. But the unconscious is equally a part of the whole mind that produces dreams and transcendental states and weird images and delicious illusions and bunches of other stuff. Kind of but not exactly like left-brain & right-brain but more so, sorta.

              Anyway, writers usually have the pathway from the unconscious to the conscious wide open–maybe not all the time but way often–wide enough for story ideas, characters, worlds, etc., etc. to rise into consciousness.

              “Normal” people, however, are either trained to or make a decision to try to close off the flow from the unconscious. Of course, it still seeps through in dreams and day-dreams and often in a person doing something they never intended to do. People often comment on such behaviour as: “He’s just not acting like himself.”

              Writer’s make a habit of not acting like themselves :-)

              That’s the best I can do right now after a very full day and an amazing business transaction and a celebration about the business deal and staying up too late and being 64 years old………


  10. eliza keating March 5, 2011 at 11:55 am

    What a fascinating man you are..absolutely brilliant content


  11. Simone Benedict March 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I fully agree with Eliza’s last comment. Your explanation amazes me.


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