The Life Cycle of an Idea

Kids are able to make up stuff on the fly, but as adults we have a really hard time with people changing stuff on us. Why is that? Do you remember when you were a kid and the world was full of wonder and nothing seemed impossible? We could dream big. One of my dreams was to be an astronaut — I really wanted to be Han Solo, truth be told. We could tell outlandish stories to our friends that made no sense, but we told them anyway because it was fun! Remember fun? I see my kids do it all the time. They take a simple idea and run it over and then back over it and run it over several more times, making it different each time and laughing all the way.

Somewhere along the line of becoming an adult we lose that outlook on life and become cynics to one degree or another. Things need to make sense. Life becomes about the realities of the world and not the possibilities of the world. All the mundanities of life intrude on our time for reverie. We have bills to pay, and jobs or school or both that eat up gobs of our time. We start having children and then we have not only ourselves to worry about but little protégé to teach our worries to. It’s amazing we have any imagination left at all!

Well, as writers we have to find a way to tap back into that dream space that holds imagination. It’s our job to find the barely believable, to look around the corners that hide the stuff that’s not quite normal … to rediscover the impossible. People ask all the time, “Where do you get your ideas?” They actually come from all over the place. You have to keep your eyes open, and your mind open. It’s usually a combination of interesting events or articles that I read that trigger a thought. That thought needs to be nurtured and cultivated. I write it down, and then I think about it more. Sometimes they come in the form of a dream. I still have very vivid dreams, which are sometimes like a James Bond movie, or a fantasy film. I try to write down those ideas too, before they flicker out. If you don’t write them down they will fade away and out of your mind’s grasp. I keep a couple of notebooks at arm’s reach most of the time, because you just never know when lightening is going to strike.

I recommend reading … a lot! Read blogs, read news articles, read stories from your favorite magazines. Read books by your favorite authors, or maybe a new author in a new genre that you haven’t tried before. You never know what will combine into a glorious idea. Ideas are glorious and they need time to grow. They don’t usually burst into life fully formed. You need time to think about them more, to add to them. Keep reading, work on other projects then come back to your idea and check on it. Sometimes it will appear as if it’s hasn’t grown at all. Other times your imagination will spark and the idea will grow and mutate. Sometimes you need to prune it back a little, as it goes strange. I find that showers are great for helping the idea grow; my muse likes showers for some reason. Write all these down in your journal.

It’s also a great idea to take two or more of your ideas that you’ve been cultivating and see if they will fit together. Sometimes this will create a really great kernel for a novel. Sometimes ideas are more suited for shorter length and are just not destined to grow any bigger. That’s ok too, especially now, we seem to be seeing a rebirth of the short story that fits very nicely into the ebook format. They are perfect for a $.99 cent sell on Amazon.

Just because we are grown-ups now doesn’t mean we can’t recapture our youthful imagination. It’s like a small ember that needs some kindling and a little breath of air, then we can add some smaller sticks to it, and then bigger sticks and finally some logs as we kick it into gear.

 

Clear Ether!

I love eBooks but Book Stores are the Bomb!

3bd7c-booksI had a really enjoyable time this morning. On the spur of the moment I stopped at a brick and mortar bookstore on the way back from Indianapolis. It had been several years since I’ve been in a good one and I found it stimulating and ridiculously fun. It was like going to a candy store. Since I’ve started writing with a purpose and learning the craft, my appreciation for good stories and great crafters of phrase has increased dramatically.
I also find that I’m keenly aware of lots of things I used to take for granted, things like how stores are arranged to draw you in, how employees treat you, how a story is unfolded, lots of little things like that; I’m paying a lot closer attention to everything. I also pay a lot of attention to the way things are shaping up in the publishing industry and it was my first time in a book store since things have really started to drastically change in the legacy publishing world. I think to most normal people it is likely happening without their even being aware of it, unless one of their favorite bookstores is closing. But the eBooks were right in front as you come in the door. The big push is on. It’s been on for a while now I suppose and the underlying numbers show eBooks increasing each month.
There is something magical about spending time in a book store and I really hope they manage to find their way through all the changes, as life would be lessened by their absence. It was delightful to be able to browse and read the dust jackets and see what they had on display. I could spend an entire day in a book store and not get the least bit bored. While I was there I found 3 books that I want to read, EmbassyTown by China Mieville, Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson, and The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. Just like that. I hadn’t seen these online except I think I remember someone on Twitter mentioning that they thought Robopocalypse was awesome, but I had no idea what it was about. All of these books have imaginative ideas for the premise of the book. Stuff that makes you say, “Wow, that’s so cool!” I‘m amazed at their ideas, they are so original and interesting, and it’s humbling to the novice writer. I really need to do this more often. Whenever I see books, it makes me want all the more to finish mine, whether it’s the grocery store, the drugstore or the bookstore. There are so many people writing books these days. Is it more than before or does it just seem that way because I’m paying attention?

Clear Ether!

Just finished an Incredible book! Shades of Milk and Honey

     I heard Mary Robinette Kowal on one of my favorite podcasts several months ago and was taken with her remarkable views on writing.  Her take was so much different than those that I had been hearing that it stuck with me and I put her upcoming novel on my wish list as a curiosity to see how her approach translated to reality.


     I was in the middle of a long series by CJ Cherryh and wanted to finish what I had started, but went ahead and ordered the book when it came out and told my wife that I thought it might appeal to her, as it was a period setting.  My wife and Mary Kowal are both fans of Jane Austin, who was the inspiration for the book, Shades of Milk and Honey.  She adored the book and it is one of the best books she has read this year according to her.



     I started the book this morning and finished it just now and I have to say that it was fantastic!  I am not a fast reader but I read the book from cover to cover, with a few breaks to eat and do a little work, in under twelve hours.  That is a rarity for me, but the book has such wonderful appeal, from setting to mythos to character that one can’t help be drawn in.  I like a happy ending too and this one finished in a grand fashion, leaving me wanting more.  I was very taken with her writing style and with a setting that makes me wish that manners were not a thing of the past.  Although there are many things about the early nineteenth century that I would not enjoy, I definitely think our society could use a good dose of propriety and civility.


Mary also takes little jab at herself with one of my favorite quotes:

“One must not put trust in novelists, Beth; they create worlds fit to their own needs and drive their characters mad in doing it.”



I know she has a second book coming out in 2012 to follow this one, Glamour in Glass, but it will be a long wait indeed. If you like period pieces and magic, this one will definitely satisfy!  Well done Mary Robinette Kowal!