Someone asked me the other day, How do you come up with ideas for your stories? I resisted the urge to laugh, because weirdly that’s the question writers seem to get asked the most. I say ‘weirdly’ because my instinctive response was along the line of, How do you breathe? I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I mean, having the right idea can be tricky. Especially if it’s the right idea for a situation — like, How do I get my characters out of this mess? or, What can I write that will fit the theme of this anthology? But ideas at large? They just happen.
I dream, I talk to people, I listen to music, mis-read signs, overhear conversations, fall in love with a beautiful turn of phrase and violate its context until it’s something else. I lie on the floor playing cards and hear voices. I do nothing at all and they just fall into my head.
I understand this doesn’t happen to everyone. Or if it does they are not paying attention. But for me it’s like… like people are talking in the next room and you’re not listening but you hear your name and suddenly all your attention refocuses. Life just happens and sometimes something triggers in my brain. It’s a completely involuntary reflex.
I think if it didn’t happen I would get freaked out. Not all at once, but slowly, over time. Like a creeping eeriness of knowing something isn’t quite right but being unable to say why. Because it would be a horror story. It’d be like losing the ability to hear. And see. And walk.
People ask, How do you write? I say, How do you not?