Hate to start out with, “ever since I was a young guy,” but I’m totally going to right now. It’s the perfect start to what this post is about, despite the near plagiarism of Johnny Cougar.
So… ever since I was a young guy, people have asked me where I got ideas from. Back then they were asking about songs, because that’s pretty much all I wrote at the time. Wrote some jokes. Yeah. They weren’t funny.
There are fifteen books in my stack of insanity about “coming up with ideas,” “building the perfect story,” “unlocking the creative spirit.”
And so on.
These are some of the worst books ever written. I’m not going to assail any of these authors’ characters by naming names. By that, I mean they’re not worth the trouble. It’s a great racket, though. These fifteen guys and gals managed to convince me to buy a book written about ideas by people who didn’t have any ideas—naturally they should be the ones on the front lines telling us where to aim our brains.
We’re holding the guns. We’re the soldiers. This goes for anything. Business, relationships, ideas about whatever, really. Here’s where it gets tricky. If I start telling you how to come up with ideas, then I’m one of those guys.
All I can say is that I’ll tell you what I do. I have to think about this stuff all the time, because anything can spark a story. Everything can be fascinating but not everything always is. I’ve gotten through four novels and I’m still not sure if any of them are particularly great, but they were my ideas, and I own them. No, like own them. They were mine, good or bad, the product of a lot of work.
That last word. Work. Picture a crooked-backed old man with candles all around, dipping his quill into the inkwell for yet another attempt. The fire is off to the side, waning from flames to embers. There are crumpled up pieces of paper all over the floor. His wife comes in to check on him, sees him there, shakes her head, knows it’s one of those nights, closes the door once again. Apparently it needs to be the 1700’s. No clue why.
Dude’s working. He knows that he’s come up with gold before, and so he will again. Gold isn’t the mountain, but the mountain has gold. Blow the damn thing up if you have to.
Mining is actually a decent metaphor for finding ideas. Nobody knows where the ideas are—we just know that they’re out there. It’s about combining a lot of getting dirty and a little bit of luck. Maybe you get lucky quick. If so, good on you. All I know is, no dirty, no luck.
Pretty soon you’ll be flush with ideas. Then you can raise your game, have too many, start learning how to sift the really good from the so-so. When you do, let me know. I’ll be here reading The Power Of Exercise For The Creative Brain. Kidding. That's not a thing. You know what, though? I bet it is. Who publishes this crap? I have a few ideas...
See you after.