Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 38 Days

Where do you get your ideas?

I can think of no six words more frustrating to creative types, including writers, than those. For me, at least, it’s not a frustrating question because there are no answers or because the answer is some kind of ineffable koan that you have to visit a wrinkly hermit sitting cross-legged at the top of some distant mountain to attain. Quite the opposite, in fact. For me the frustration arises from there being just so many possible answers to that question.

Ideas are, after all, rather fickle things. Like an ill-disciplined baseball player, they can strike at any time. I made reference to one of my more common forms of inspiration: people-watching. I’m currently on a vacation/religious observance (I won’t go into that, unless I’m asked to in the comments) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It’s a beautiful part of the country that I haven’t been to before.(IT’s also on Cenral time, meaning I’m frantically trying to get this typed up before midnight, when it would no longer by a mere 38 days to NaNoWriMo)  It’s also full of lots of little non-chain restaurants, pubs and stores. I love these as it’s a slightly unusual environment to observe people in. Last night, I was in an “English” pub called the Duke of Devon enjoying a plate of Fish & Chips and in the far corner of the main tavern area of the bar, were a couple of guys who were drinking dark beers and carrying out an animated conversation. Nothing particularly unusual about that, except that each time one of them spoke they covered their mouth like an NFL coach calling plays from the sidelines.

So, I decided that the two of them were clearly German spies sharing some vital secret about national security, or perhaps beer brewing technology and that they had chosen this innocuous tourist restaurant as a suitable place to perform their tradecraft.

Other sources of inspiration can strike from anywhere. Today, while playing golf (badly), I looked up to see an unusual cloud formation:


To me, those clouds kind of look like feathers. And when I see a sky full of feathers with no birds, I get to wondering “what happened to the birds?” and the somewhat moody lighting of the shadowed trees as the sun sets put me in a dark mood, so some great catastrophe has taken place in the sky, causing what was a huge flock of seagulls (the bird kind, not the bad hair “I ran so far away” kind) to be vaporized instantly leaving nothing but falling flight feathers. I’d have to figure out the nature of the catastrophe, and if only birds were affected, or whether aircraft, bats and other occupants of the friendly skies (satellite/radio communication waves, for example) are suffering. It’s not very concrete, but there’s clearly a germ of an idea there.

Or perhaps the building on the far right of this picture with the twin smoke stacks is some form of diabolical evil laboratory performing experiments that are an affront to the laws of both God and man?


Again, these are barely sketched thumbnails of ideas, and they are things that have hit me when I’ve been distracted. The only thing they have in common is that they are all based on things I’ve thought or seen in the last twenty four hours.

What about you, dear readers, what are your inspirations?

And what’s your answer to these six words:

Where do you get your ideas?


One thought on “Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 38 Days

  1. I don’t believe there truly is a sole source of inspiration I seek out for writing ideas. I do have a fellow writer with whom I often speak to discuss my writing process and direction, but normally she and I don’t engage until after the initial idea is in my head. Like you, I think that people watching and observation is really my most reliable idea source.

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