Yesterday, I met a guy who asked me what I wanted to do for a living. I told him that I wanted to be an author. Excited, he asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”
“Well,” I said, kind of uncertainly, “I get a lot of stuff from my regular life…”
“You mean, like real world stuff? So, you don’t actually write fiction?”
“Well, I do, but there’s real stuff mixed in there too.” I could tell that this answer confused him, but I wasn’t sure how to answer his question.
We were both working, so he had to leave soon after that. Still, for a long time after, I thought about it. Where did my ideas come from? I’m not the kind of writer that waits for the Almighty Muse, or who sits around for ‘inspiration’ to strike. Heck, I’m not even a writer who has a specific writing routine or creative haven to escape to when I write.
I just write when I have time and with whatever resources I have available, whether that’s scribbling in a notebook for five minutes in a car or typing on a computer at home for an hour or two on my days off. Ideas aren’t something I particularly have a lack or oversupply of. To be honest, they’re a bit of a non-issue at this point in my writing journey.
So, where do these ideas come from?
I’d say that a major contributor to my ideas is my emotions. I’ve had some pretty turbulent times in my life and unpacking those emotions is a huge theme in my writing. Also, the feelings I have about home and family and the power of believing in yourself when it’s difficult are fodder for a lot of stories. While these emotions actually happened, they were fictionalized in a very different way.
For example, the very first novel I wrote in high school was about a girl who had to fight her manipulative family so that she could be seen as a person, rather than a weapon. This quest for independence mirrored my real life at that time, because of how I felt about losing my own family and wanting to be recognized as an individual, rather than a burden or an annoying asset who brought my grandparents a paycheck.
The next novel, ‘Takeover’, was about a boy who had to leave behind everything he knew to strike out for the dangerous surface world. I just so happened to be leaving Texas and my drug-and-sex-filled vagabond lifestyle to live with my dad in another state.
The one after that? A slave must accept her new destiny as a Dragon Rider and form healthy relationships with the other Riders in order to stop an evil corporation that wants to drag her, and the world, back into the past. Cutting ties from people I thought were my friends and embracing myself as a fully functioning and non-broken person was hard, but that story helped me get through it.
Another place where I find my ideas is in my perceptions. I write about how I wish the world could be. I write about matriarchal societies where everyone is equal because I’ve seen and been hurt by a patriarchal system. I write about down-on-their-luck people who are helped by unexpected kindnesses because I was kicked while I was down. I write about queer characters, women, and people of color because I believe that if there were more voices in this world than ‘white, male, and straight,’ the world would be a better place to live in. These ideas form my perceptions and are things that I want to communicate in my writing.