Sunday, November 23, 2008

What a Good Idea by Barbara Quinn

I’m grateful for ideas and the way my brain manages to come up with them. I’m over sixty pages into a new novel and this is the point where I need to trust that the creative part of my brain will get the job done. It does no good to tell my brain what I want it to do. I have to listen and wait for the right solution to turn up, for the right dilemma to appear in front of my main character, for the next adventure to crystallize.

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with a suddenly obvious solution. Ideas come when they want, not when I want them to. It can be in the shower, or while cooking dinner, while taking a walk, while sitting quietly waiting for night to fall. I’ve learned that I don’t have any control over these ideas. And more importantly, I’ve learned to trust that they will come along.

If ideas were animals, they would be cats. You can call to them all you want, but if they don’t want to be around you, they will disappear for days on end. And they will only appear when they are comfortable and ready to interact on their terms.

Some people get ideas from current events, or from the past. Others get them from interactions with people and new occurrences. This is the time of year when I am often asked at parties and gatherings, “But where do you get your ideas?” My favorite answer for that question is a borrowed one: “I think them up.” Those few words, “I think them up”, explain a lot of the process. It’s an indirect kind of thinking, this idea creation, a conjuring, not a put-on-your-thinking-cap type of approach. Sure I have to plug up plot holes, and make things logical. But for a large part of the process, I need to sit back and let the brain do its elusive processing.

Here’s to ideas. May they purr to life for you!


Kathryn Magendie said...

I love that - ideas are like cats...yes!

I get the "shower thoughts" too - and washing dishes, things that are "mindless" activities free the brain to do its thing. While walking the mountain I receive thoughts and character's voices. And, yes, late at night - but i never write them down and usually they flee away by morning!

Patresa Hartman said...

oh what a great metaphor! ideas and cats!

i know that when our cats finally do want attention, they will NOT go away. one of them, smokey, will hop up on a table or counter and start knocking things off in the mornings, just to get me out of bed to feed him.

now what do you make of THAT? :)

Barbara Quinn said...

Kat, I always think I'll remember those ones that come to me at night too and I never do. I keep a pen by the bed and sometimes can manage to scribble a couple of words down when I'm not too foggy from being asleep.

Patresa, That fits perfectly, doesn't it? The big ideas, the ones that you absolutely must deal with, do not leave you alone until you listen to them and do their bidding. Smokey is one smart kitty!

Angie Ledbetter said...

It really is amazing sometimes when Mr. Left Brain is engaged in a mindless chore and Mr. Righty can sneak out to play. I bet you have notepads and pens all over the house and car. :)

Barbara Quinn said...

Angie, Yes, I do have pens everywhere! I keep a notebook with me that's in back of my daily calendar. I don't feel right if I can't deal with all those nagging thoughts.

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