I am occasionally asked regarding how or where I get ideas for my poems, lyrics, and short stories. The ideas come from everywhere and everything. Sometimes a single word or phrase ignites a spark of an idea. Sometimes it is a photograph, a smell that brings up a memory, something I see in nature, a person, or an action.
To me, it is a matter of seeing the same things everyone else sees, but looking at them differently, from unusual angles, or as though with different lighting or through a prism.
This morning, for example, I saw California poppies as I left the house. That brought up the phrase, “Gold Fever” and that phrase led in several creative directions. You may see a poem, lyric, or story with that title in the near future. On any given day I often have multiple such inspirations. Sometimes I let them sit for a while to see how strong the pull is toward the idea, and other times I immediately begin writing and don’t stop until I’m done.
In either case, I’ve found that it is important to immediately write down the idea. I’ve lost some wonderful ideas because I didn’t have a way to immediately capture them, and then got distracted and forgot what they were. Now, I almost always have within arms’ reach a way to capture ideas.
Perhaps strangely, some of my best ideas come when I am in the bathroom, mowing lawns, or doing something tedious. I believe that it may be because my brain has more bandwidth and freedom to be creative at such times.
Taking a seed of an idea and fleshing it out feels to me a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, gradually adding pieces, creating an outline in a basics shape, trying different things to see what fits, expanding the picture, etc.
Then when the puzzle is put together, the next phase to me is like sculpting. The completed jigsaw puzzle is typically mostly two-dimensional, but I want my work to be at least 3-dimensional. At this point, I equate the project to be more akin to a block of marble.
It might be a beautiful block of marble, but I want it to be so much more. Now, rather than adding, I attempt to chip away at the block as sculptors do, to reveal something that was there all the time and was bursting to show itself.
The challenge to me is to remove just the right amount of the block to reveal the essence of the piece.
I know that I have succeeded when the completed work moves people. If they feel one or more emotions, that is good, but if they feel connected and/or inspired, that is great.
I feel that my writing is making a positive difference when I get feedback from readers that something I created moved them to tears–joyous or healing—or inspired them to cast off something that has not been working in their lives, or to try something new.
There are few things that make me feel more wonderful than knowing that I’m making a positive difference in the world, whether it is in the life of a single person or many.