People ask me where I get my ideas. I always tell them, “Schenectady.” They look at me with confusion and I say, “Yeah, there’s this ‘idea service’ in Schenectady and every week like clockwork they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas for 25 bucks.” Every time I say that at a college lecture there’s always some schmuck who comes up to me and wants the address of the service. – Harlan Ellison
Sometimes I’m so bogged down by long-term projects (such as the Mendaihu Universe completion and self-publication) that I end up wondering if I’m going to ever come up with another original idea again. My focus is so strong on the task at hand that I fear I’m letting a bunch of future ideas pass me by.
This is yet another silly writer fear, of course. And I fall for it every damn time.
In reality, have I come up with any new ideas? Well, as a matter of fact I have! There’s the MU-related storyline that takes place in current time rather than in the future; there’s the family band storyline idea I toyed around with earlier this year for my daily 750 Words. And I still find myself waking up in the morning, remembering snippets of odd dreams and thinking ooh, that would make a good story! And I have a “job jar” here in Spare Oom where I’ve dropped scraps of paper for passing snippets of ideas in case I’m hungry for something to write. So it’s not as if the idea well is dry. I’m just not paying attention to it at that moment.
Speaking of 750 Words, I recently chose to return to that site for daily practice words, as I’m finding myself with a bit of extra time to do so again. As mentioned before, I’ve used that site as my mental playground for new ideas. Some last for a couple hundred words, while others are ongoing. Some are detailed ideas, while others are just wordplay (such as my exercise of writing a story only using dialogue and no tags or prose). I have no idea what I’m going to write until I log in and start typing away, and for the next 750 words or so I just let myself riff on an idea. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter.
The fact that I’m writing, even if it’s just for mental exercise, is good enough for me. The ideas are still there…they’re just tucked away, waiting for me to bring them front and center.