Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From? They Just Appear!

First off, mega brownie points to anyone who can tell me what awesome movie my title is from. (I'm pretty sure I quoted it correctly. I'm darn close, at least.)

But it's a good question. Where DO thoughts come from? Or, more specifically, where do ideas for stories come from?

Something I've heard a lot of people say is they get ideas whil they're in the shower. When the FNC was at the SCBWI Poconos Retreat, we chatted with a woman who said she got so many ideas in the shower that she actually kept a notebook and pen on the edge of her tub!

There was another woman at the conference who said she fixes all the problems in her novel in her sleep. If she can't seem to figure something out for her story, she writes the problem down on a piece of paper right before she goes to sleep. When she wakes up, she has the solution! (I WISH this worked for me!)

Ann Patchett was the keynote speaker at my undergraduate graduation. In her speech she talked about being terrified to get married, because how on earth was she supposed to explain to her husband that her job consisted mostly of lying on the couch staring at the ceiling?! (I still have issues explain this one to my husband. I've even got to the point where I will tell him, when he inevitably asks, "So, what do you want to do?", "I want to stare at the wall," because he seems incapable of understanding concepts like "quiet" and "thinking time." Ah, boys.)

So let's check out our list. So far we've learned that ideas come from the shower, from sleeping, and from staring at stuff.

But... I figured out a new place ideas come from. For me, at least.

I bet you'll never guess. It's not quiet and peaceful like any of the above three.

It's the gym. That's right, the gym. Like sweating your butt off on the treadmill gym. Like water bottles and spandex pants and techno remixes gym.

Doesn't sound very inspiring, does it?

But it was! There I was on the elliptical machine, doing my obligatory 30-minutes-to-stay-healthy workout, listening to Dashboard Confessional (like you do, when you're at the gym...) and suddenly my head was filled with ideas!

During my 30 minute workout, I had ideas for no less than THREE new novels/stories, plus two new scenes of my current novel, AND a really good idea for a blog post/essay.

That's like a new idea every 6 minutes! It was awesome. I had so many ideas I had to write them down on the back of a CVS receipt in my car the moment I left the gym because I knew if I didn't they would all jumble up in my head.

I guess this is a whole new reason to stay healthy, right? I guess it's true--exercise releases endorphines. Endorphines make people happy. Happy people don't just kill their husbands. Or run out of ideas, apparently. (Again, brownie points for telling me what movie that quote is from. And this time I know it's right, because I looked it up.)

So, the gym is Inspiration-Central for me. But what about all of you? Where do YOUR ideas come from?


  1. What's with you today? Yesterday you were normal and today you're like the chinese guy from the Karate Kid. What's with you today?

    --What's with today, today?

  2. I get my ideas driving to downtown Los Angeles in traffic. It helps if I play a little epic music, like the LOTR soundtrack or something.

  3. I get most of my ideas from books. I mean, not like, "Oh, that's cool, I'll use that!" but like, I fall in love with a series because of the protagonist, or the twist at the end, and I'll suddenly think... hmm... that could work. :)

  4. Great post! The quote at the end is from Legally Blonde...but I'm not sure where the title comes from.

  5. It's funny, I was asked this very question earlier this week in my university's writing center. A fellow grad student in my workshop came in for help on a paper (since you know, we creative folks can't write critical pieces to save our lives) and she said when reading my stuff in workshop all she ever thinks is: "Where the **** does she come up with this stuff?!" I laughed and told her I would never come up with the ideas for the sort of stories she writes either. We found the dual nature of that amusing.

    My ideas usually come to me either while I'm in the shower, or while I'm walking. I live in Orange County without a car (I know, it is very tragic) and so if I need to get somewhere and no one can go with me, I've got PLENTY of time to think.

    Then by the time I get home or get a notebook handy, I can't remember exactly what I went through, and have to wait until I'm walking again to let the brainstorm come back.

  6. EMPIRE RECORDS. Ahem. I use that reference ALL the time.

    "My dad always said that there's 24 usable hours in every day."

    Anyway, I came on over here from Ashley's (*looks up*) blog about the same subject all because of this posting.

    I mentioned to her already that I always seem to get my ideas whenever I can't write them down. That means -- while driving, in the shower, at work, just before I fall asleep -- really anytime it's hard to express the ideas or write them down and usually that means I lose them.

    I really ought to think about a notebook next to my bed because I never want to get up and write things down. But I know that I should because chances are good I'll never think them again.

  7. I agree with you about the physical exercise. I get a ton of ideas when I going biking or when I sweat it out on the treadmill. Not so much starting at the wall though. It doesn't do it for me.


  9. Great post! I have to fess up to the shower one. I get a lot of ideas in the shower.

    And my other one is while driving. It's quiet and I can't really do anything else but think. So I get a lot of my ideas in the car too.

  10. I've gotten my last two novel ideas in the car. Yayyy driving on I-95 at 10 mph during rush hour!

    Love for the Legally Blonde quote!

  11. Running IS insanely inspiring! But I prefer the nature variety. The gym is ehhhhh, besides the fact that I have a fear of treadmills.

    As for me, I get ideas when running or on trains. God, I love trains, unless there's train strikes which completely ruin the tranquility and beautiful scenery. WHOO.

    And nice use of my absolute favorite Legally Blonde quote ever! :D

  12. Good for you for figuring that out, Sara.

    In the car. Yep. Done that. Drove home from the Poconos by myself and 3 new ideas popped into my head.

    In the shower. Yep. That too.

    And especially after a good long walk.

    In Anne Lamott's book BIRD BY BIRD, she has a great chapter on Index Cards. To quote: "I have index cards and pens all over the house -- by the bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, by the phones, and I have them in the glove compartment of my car." She even puts one in her pocket when she walks the dog.

    I've started doing that myself. That way, when those ideas hit, you always have a way to write them down.

  13. I get a ton of ideas from people watching in San Francisco. the things people say in public.

    and the Who knows where thoughts come from line is from Empire Records, right?

  14. oops, just scrolled down and saw a million people had already called out the empire records ref.

  15. Frankie, Sarah, Helen/Kiaya and maggie--way to go picking out the Empire Records quote! It's one of my favorite movies of all time. I think I even put "Damn the man, save the empire!" on my senior page in high school. (Yeah, I was THAT cool.)

    Jamie, Donna & Aly--nice call on the Legally Blonde quote too! Another favorite of mine.

    Thanks for all the comments! We seem pretty evenly split--shower, driving, walking/running/exerting oneself in some way. Another one I forgot to mention is lying in bed when I first wake up on a weekend and don't have to go anywhere. I find natural light very inspiring (how artsy-fartsy does that sound?)

    Driving is great, the only problem is when you get really into an idea and space out on what's going on on the road!


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