Thursday, July 7, 2011

Defining inspiration in 140 characters or less. Where mine comes from, and how to get inside my head.


If you are a writer who hangs out with other writers chances are someone has DARED ask you about your process. (Since you are here that is a big affirmative.)

I always ask other writers about their process on my blog because it helps to understand it. Make them think about it, make them think period. Trust me, it can only help.

I’d understand my writing as effortless. I just write and there is very little fuss. I have spent more than half my life learning to manipulate my own process and I like to share that with my friends. The more awesome writers there are the more fabulous stories I have to read, and that is really what it is about for me; awesome stories.

The thing I get asked the most (Other than when my book comes out.) Is:
How do I come up with my ideas?

It’s a loaded question. Some people want to to know how I come up with my plots, others how I come up with characters, settings, and  million specific other things but the truth is I never really have an answer. Until today.

I tend to tweet about ideas I have. Not specific ideas because I am not running a free idea bank, but when I have ideas, or sometimes even teasers about them. I know every book I am going to write for the next three years, and I am as disturbed by that as I am proud. Tweeting about them—and they often show themselves in large clumps—leads to people asking how a lot more often than I am ever going to be confortable with. I often find myself trying to explain, only to end up apologizing for not being to find the words to explain in properly, and ending with a promise that I am actually a writer.

To make it easy on both of us, I am going to start by listing the top places ideas tend to come to me. On my Sunday special The Writing Process Demystified I will explore some of these ideas in details.

#1 The shower. I hear this answer from many other writers. A couple of weeks back just before one Ninja Chat or another and in that brief moment in time I came up with an entire book plot, and wrote word for words the first 3 paragraphs. I came up with main character names, and in less than minutes I felt I knew them all. Here is how I do it:

Forget everything. For me, writers block doesn’t exist. Writers block is something more appropriately named life or stress. If you removed that from your head creative you will have no inhabitation. If you don’t worry about failing, you never will. So don’t think about any of that. Close your eyes, and pretend you are someone else.

#2 Parks/Museums/art galleries. Turn off the world, and look at everything with fresh eyes. Don’t think about what you want have for dinner, or bills you have to pay. Go through these places like a child would, seeing everything for the first time. You know Rorschach tests? Do this with yourself, write down what your initial thoughts are on everything,and keep them for later.

#3 Traffic. I think I would have serious road rage if not for the people watching I do when in traffic jams. Need a character? Look around you.* Since it is likely you will never see these people again feel to draw up hasty first impressions to use in your fictitious works.

*Coming soon: a blog for characters of all sorts by me and the talented (and insane) Heather Jacobs at 

I probably shouldn’t call other people insane that is like the pot, and the… oh don’t make me say it. I’d love to hear about your top inspiration spots, and make sure you check back for Writing Demystified this Sunday I am going into spot #2


LynNerdKelley said...

Excellent post, Angela. I can see how this was a tough one to write, trying to pinpoint where all the ideas come from. Wow, lucky you getting a whole book plot in the shower! And the MCs and their names on top of it. That hasn't happened to me yet. I agree with you about writer's block. Stress blocks our creativity. I get a lot of ideas while driving, not in heavy traffic, but a straight shot through the mountain pass after a critique meeting. Those meetings are always inspirational anyway. Sometimes I get ideas from dreams. Last night I had a doozy! I love hearing how writers get their ideas, too. I'm signing up to follow you!

Anonymous said...

She's completely right, I'm insane. Great post!

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