Thursday, June 4, 2009

Where to Get Ideas


If I could stop procrastinating, I could write at least fifty short stories from all the story-starters in my "percolator," a big blue binder that houses my writing life. I used to make the excuse that "I would write if I just had some ideas." But I have gobs of ideas; they fly at me from everywhere. Sometimes I capture them right away (QuickVoice, people!), but some escape.

My best places to get ideas, if you need a few:

  • Random words I overhear: ("I'd be dead by now if not for her," "We just wanted a quiet holiday, I swear," "This tractor is a time machine" (okay, my kid said the last one, but it's still pretty cool)
  • Michio Kaku's weekly science radio show, Explorations, on public radio
  • BoingBoing, a usually interesting blog (especially Gadgets)
  • Wired Magazine (they're kinda snarky and sensational sometimes, and have permanent wood for anything gadgety, but ideas emerge)
  • Dreams (really!)
Obviously, my ears perk up to tech topics, and that's where the fresh fodder for sci-fi hides out.

I think the key is to write down anything vaguely interesting or catchy, even if it sounds absurd (especially if it sounds absurd).

2 comments:

JohnR said...

I love this list. I follow boingboing sporadically, but I have to track down Michio Kaku's show. It also reminds me of a William Gibson interview. He listed 3 periodicals as major inspiration sources: juxtapoz (a street/low art mag), Wired and I think Bizarre or something that covered topics like cryptozoology.

A lot of my fascination with magazines, music, art galleries, blogs, RSS feeds, twitter, and other social media is fueled by my cool-finding and story-hunting drive. Strangely enough, the academic texts that I plodded through in my grad school days (both theory and field study) are huge sources of story material for me.

Utopiana said...

Lately, I've been reading the NPR tech blog, too, but ideas don't really have to come from tech stuff exclusively.

I can't remember if I blogged about this or not, but one day I was having breakfast at an outdoor cafe with Mr. B when I overheard a lengthy conversation in which a guy was talking about how to create and market a phony miracle product, as he had successfully done. That gave me all kinds of ideas (just set in the future).

So, you never know where it could come from. I keep a notebook with me whenever possible so I can jot random things down for later.

Three of the most interesting texts I read in grad school were Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard, Sorting Things Out by Bowker and Star, and Twice Dead by Margaret Lock. Religion, classification, and the culture of organ transplants. Weird sources of inspiration, but they really had an impact on my thinking.