The most common – and most annoying – question writers and artists get, is “Where do you get your ideas from?”. I think that’s a pretty stupid question. I get ideas all the time, but I don’t really know where I get them from. They just pop up.
However, there are a few things I do to get ideas for articles, screenplays or comics.
What’s really good – and at the same time really bad – about being a writer, is that you work alone. You don’t meet any people if you sit at home, you don’t talk to anybody, you don’t overhear interesting and inspiring conversations.
Okay, maybe you rent an office somewhere and write your stuff with people around you. To me, that’s not the ideal way to be effective. I can work during those circumstances if I’m covering, say, the Cannes Film festival and write my reports in the press room on a very tight deadline – but if I want to create something of my own, like a script or a story, or write a longer article, I need solitude … while writing.
But if you get stuck sitting by your keyboard, if your brain goes blank, don’t expect to get ideas just like that.
Here’s what I do:
The cheapest way: take a walk. Ideal if you have a dog. Not so good if you have a fish and try taking it for a walk. I don’t have any animals, but I like taking long walks either through busy city streets, or in parks.
But when you take these walks, don’t think “I have to get ideas! Fast!” You won’t get any ideas if you think like that. Think of something else. Then you’ll realize you actually do get ideas. Hmm… I’ve never seen that misspelled sign before. Funny. And that old, crumbling gate over there – I wonder what’s behind it… You get the idea.
Then we have the more expensive way: go to a pub. To me, this is the best way to get ideas – and that’s not because of beer and drinks.
As I mentioned, I – and probably you – need to meet and talk to people. I like to relax, sit down, read a newspaper while drinking a cup of coffee (yes, this works in cafés too!) or a beer, and experience all kinds of people. The regulars, the ones I’ve never seen before. Men and women, young and old.
I prefer pubs with a wide range of guests – the places where both business men in suits and the rough guys working in the harbor show up after work. The best – or worst – of to worlds. People who surprise you with their knowledge of things you know absolutely nothing about.
Sometimes I just sit in a corner and listen to the other guests discussing. Sometimes I join the discussions. And quite often, I return back home with lots of ideas.
And then there’s this thing that never works. It’s when somebody who knows who you are and what youndo walk up to you and pitch a “great idea.” A guy who has the best idea ever, a story that would be a hit in Hollywood. 99.9% of these ideas suck. They are usually terrible.
But! Sometimes the guys with the awful ideas manage to give you an idea or two anyway. Maybe the guy has a funny moustache. Or a silly voice or accent. Ill-fitting clothes or a really annoying attitute. Now, that’s what gives you ideas for stories and articles!
Recently, I wrote an article on writing scripts for comics. At least once a week the past six months, I’ve met this man in his 70s, who’s always asking the same question. “How do you write comics?” I’ve explained it countless times, and he still doesn’t get it. But it inspired me to write that article!
What never works, though, are books or Internet sites with titles like “999 ideas for budding bestseller authors”.
Get your ideas yourself!
How To Get Ideas For Your Writing by Pidde Andersson is licensed under a Creative Commons Erkännande-Inga bearbetningar 2.5 Sverige License.