Friday, November 17, 2006

Why I Write, Part Two

So you have this idea. This really great idea. But you know, like all great ideas, unless you do something with it, it will eventually be forgotten...until someone else comes along and actually does something with the same or similar idea, at which point you are hitting yourself over the head for not having done anything with the idea when it was your own!

Did you follow that?

I get ideas all the time. Once, when I worked at a Little Caesars pizza place, Little Caesars decided to introduce flavored crust. So, they shipped these giant rolls of stickers with the letters C, B, S, and P on them. When someone wanted, say, poppy seed on their crust, you stuck a little "P" sticker on their ticket so the person making the pizza would notice.

Thing is, there were four giant rolls, and we often had four people answering phones at the same time, and the stickers would end up unraveling, getting in the way, or we'd lose one of the sticker rolls or something. So, one evening when business was slow I started tearing apart a cardboard box and folding it this way and that, stapling it here and there, until I had created a dispenser that held all four rolls of stickers very neatly.

One of my co-workers was in awe. "How do you come up with ideas like that?"

(Honestly, it was no big deal.)

But that question seems to be a common one to authors.

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Well, you see, there's this idea factory... Okay, okay. Who knows? Ideas just come. Some times they come by purposeful observation of the world around you, and sometimes they just sort of pop into the head out of nowhere. I think everyone has ideas. But what makes an author an author is that they don't just brush off the idea. They file it away, or nurture it, and grow it until you have an entire garden of ideas to draw from.

And if an idea is strong enough, it doesn't leave you alone, and you either have to ignore it, or write it down.

I think any writer will also tell you that not all ideas that they write down are necessarily good ones. I have a folder on my computer full of short stories with ideas that I thought were good, but when I bothered to write them down, they were rather disappointing. Of course, I keep those files around in case someday I wish to revisit the idea, maybe placing a new twist on it.

But regardless, exploring those ideas is really a huge part of why I write. It is asking, "What if?" and then playing it out, seeing if it can reveal something unique, or entertaining, or profound. Often it doesn't. But sometimes it does.

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