It’s the one question every writer has heard, probably more times than we can count: “Where do you get your ideas?”
I don’t know why it seems so stereotypically targeted to writers. I can’t think of anyone else who’s supposed to answer this with any regularity. So I’m genuinely curious: Do session guitarists get asked this? Research chemists? Or choreographers? A couple months ago I read Twyla Tharp’s quasi-memoir, The Creative Habit, and she left no doubts as to her process, but didn’t mention anyone inquiring about it as if it were some shrouded mystery.
Theory: The mystery comes from writing’s spartan, sedentary nature, in which we work with nothing that anyone else can see. We just type. That’s it. Twyla Tharp goes into her studio and starts moving, and maybe magic happens. It’s probably fascinating and beautiful to observe. But me and my kind? We just sit and type. There is no writer’s equivalent of guitar face. We don’t headbang while channeling stuff through our fingers. There is no body language except slumping. We just sit here and fucking type, with random catatonic states in which not even that happens.
Guaranteed, if you were in this room with me right now and not allowed to play with the cats, you could only watch me ignoring you, you would be ready to kill one or both of us within five minutes.
It isn’t that we work with nothing. It’s that the raw material has no tangibility on the outside. Still, it’s there, and it has to come from somewhere, either passively … or not so passively, recalling the advice of Jack London:
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” [click to continue…]