How Did You Ever Think of That?

Idea Tree

When I read interviews with authors or books describing their writing methods one question always comes up: Where do you get your ideas?  Some get very defensive, “You’d think I had an idea tree I can just pick story lines from or perhaps I say an incantation and an idea demon comes to my rescue.”  Others are a little more practical, “Whenever I read or hear something new I get a story idea.  I spend a lot of time going through magazines and newspapers and they’re just full of potential stories.”  “I take two unrated ideas and find a way to bring them together.  This creates a story.”

In my opinion it is a very good question, one as creative people we should ask ourselves: Where do our ideas come from?

I sometimes fantasies that I’m famous and am doing an interview.  The interviewer will, of course, ask where the idea for a particular story came from.  I find this is a great exercise.  There are actually times I had forgotten why I wrote a particular story.  I didn’t remember the roots.  There are other times a story seems to spring whole and complete into my mind and it is fun to tease out how the idea sunk into my subconscious to be worked out, what triggered the idea.

Knowing where an idea came from in the past can help generate ideas in the present.  Are you stuck?  Well last time you did X, Y and Z.  Why not try that again but with a twist?

When writing a blog you are in need of an endless supply of ideas.  It’s a new day, I need a new idea.  But the idea needs to be organic and have a spark of originality to it.  It can’t seem like it was generated by a machine.  When I get stuck I’ll look back at previous posts and ask myself where they came from.  This almost always helps me generate something new, something that is uniquely “Trent”.

So, how did you every think of that?  Where did that idea come from?  You need to ask yourself that question, for looking at how past ideas were developed can help you develop new ideas.  This simple question is a seed for your very own idea tree.

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Image by Trent P McDonald

15 thoughts on “How Did You Ever Think of That?

  1. rarasaur

    I like thinking of things as an idea tree… and now thinking about how to nourish that tree, feed it, harvest the fruit… yes, I like this analogy very much. :) Thanks for re-sharing this, Trent!

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  2. Corina

    I like this. It reminds me that one day, when I can catch my breath, I am writing a post about coming up with writing ideas that are authentic to the individual. One day. Hopefully soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Planting the idea for the first part of the series, letting it take root and seeing where it branches from there to come up with other stories, plots and subplots related to the original – maybe I’m pushing the metaphor too far there.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      That is a good way to look at it. When I wrote the original post my blog was 75% about writing fiction and i had a hard time with new ideas. I’ve become much more eclectic, and as you say, life is always changing and there is always something new out there.

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  4. marymtf

    What an interesting coincidence, Trent. I’m working on an idea tree right now. There’s an A – Z competition happening in April’. You’re meant to write something each day using the 26 letters of the alphabet. So for example, why is A for apple on all the flash cards is how I begin mine. Only I’ve decided that I’m not fast enough to work an article a day, even if it’s a short one,
    .I’ve decided to use the concept to either write down an idea and flesh out each one when inspiration strikes and / or post the tree when I’ve got all the ideas down.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Hi Mary. That’s pretty good – you always have someplace to start. A lot of bloggers have set schedules which gives them a head start with the ideas. Doing it ahead of time also helps so you avoid “I want to write about zebras yet today is ‘K’ day. I don’t want to write kangaroos.” Good luck with the challenge and thanks for stopping by.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks. Typically I think of a story/article/post first and then find/take/create the right image. Occasionally it happens the other way around. With you, then, the answer to the question is to go through your images and think about each one and come up with the idea. I know you do something like that since you’re able to keep two blogs going.

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