Friday, February 3, 2012

How to come up with an idea.

Sometimes it feels as if ideas are beautiful, tropical fish that can only be caught in the most rare of locations or with the most expensive of bait. Only the special people get to catch them. Everybody else has to make due with trout or carp.

When I'm feeling blocked or uninspired, I like to turn to a man with no shortage of awesome, mind-blowing, crazy ideas.

"Love is the answer to everything. It's the only reason to do anything. If you don't write stories you love, you'll never make it." - Ray Bradbury

It's true. There's a lot of pressure out there to conform to trends, but the wise people, the smart people, know that the only way to ultimately succeed is to follow your own interests and your own passions. (Of course this depends on your definition of success). Don't read that an agent is looking for middle grade mysteries and whip up a middle grade mystery if you have no interest in doing so. Write the book that is on your heart. Look to the things in your life that you are passionate about. Write about those things. Maybe it's aliens. Maybe it's love affairs. Maybe it's questions of fate vs. free will. Maybe it's cheese. Doesn't matter. Write about those things. Think about what you love and why you love it, then share.

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." - Ray Bradbury

Very true, though I would add to this that sometimes we need to let the nasty stuff out as well. As a child Charlotte Bronte went to a school very much like the Lowood School described in her novel. She lost two of her sisters to tuberculosis there. Obviously it was an experience that haunted and enraged her, as she chose to include it in her book. I remember reading those chapters and feeling indignation and horror for the children there, due the vividness of the description. What are the moments in your life, the emotions, that won't let go of you? The good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Write about those things! Find the truth in them. Even if you have to twist them beyond recognition, at least it's a place to start.

"You've got to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury

Don't write safe books. Don't write books that already exist. Don't coddle your characters or shy away from dangerous ground. Don't be afraid of your own ideas or feeling like a fool. Just jump.

"Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed." - Ray Bradbury

I think this might be the most valid advice of all. The best way to get ideas? Write. Don't wait for the ideas to land on your shoulder or swim into your net. Chase those buggers. Chase them down! The more you write, the faster the ideas will come. Could take years. Could take hours. Just start.

Thanks, Ray. :)


  1. Thanks for the post. :) I needed to read those quotes!

    1. Yay! I find words of inspiration from Ray Bradbury go a long ways. :)

  2. Excellent advice, from both you and Ray Bradbury.

    1. Hah, thanks. Are my literary biases showings?

  3. Replies
    1. Aren't they? If you haven't, you should totally read his essays on writing. Extremely worthwhile.

  4. Dang that Ray Bradbury. He's one smart dude.

    And I agree, you gotta chase ideas, spear them, and make them your b*tch! :)

  5. Your post, along with Ray Bradbuy's quotes was very inspirational. I agree with all of them.