Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 No comments
Where do you get your ideas?

It's the Grand FAQ we writers face nearly every time we meet someone new. Some writers will tell you they write from life. They're trying to process their experiences, find some closure, warn others off their path of folly. My hats off to them. Autobiographical writing scares the snot out of me. Maybe when I'm 60 I'll be gutsy and wise enough to open myself up in that way.

Other writers are escapists like me, who write to enter fully into another life, another story. To shape it and be shaped by it. Writers like this will often give the quick and easy answer that "stories are everywhere, you just have to look." They make it sound so nice, like we non-autobiographical writers are the plucky pirate heroes who know how to walk 20 paces east and 3 paces north, dig a spade into the soft dirt and unearth a treasure.

Here's a dirty secret: realizing that stories are everywhere makes you feel somewhat insane. Unweeded gardens talk to you, tell you of despondency and pain. Your neighbor's bulging recycling bin sweeps you away to a party where one-time friends snub each other and the host pukes on his dream girl's shoes. Random strangers on the train captivate you, make you start stalking them so you can capture how they walk, swirl coffee in a travel mug, high-five a classmate.

I've yet to formulate an honest response about the source of my ideas that doesn't send my new acquaintance running for the DSM-IV. Due to the curse of an overactive imagination, I can actually imagine this happening to me at a party--three pages of dialogue sprinkled with action and description. And four other alternate scenarios as well, one of which involves a dog licking the canape in my acquaintance's hand when she's not looking. That's just how my brain works. I'd invite you for a tour, but it would probably scare you.
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