Where do you get your ideas from?

“Where do you get your ideas from?” That has to be the first question that every author gets asked, every where they go. First, let me put one theory to rest: I don’t get my ideas from reading other people’s books. That would be copying. Not only would that make me an unoriginal and therefore, deathly dull writer, it is also illegal. Sure, it’s tempting when you see a book make millions of pounds, to simply tweak the idea a bit and do something similar but I’d rather die a poor, original writer. The library is great for exposing you to new books, fiction or non-fiction, that make the cogs turn in your brain and lead you down new paths where an idea gleams like the holy grail in the distance. But mostly, ideas come along when you least expect them.

We are all being exposed to new ideas, new visions, new ways of thinking, all the time. But we need the metal space to turn these new treasures over in our minds and really look at them. I do most of my thinking on long walks with my dog, while I am pottering around at my local stables where I keep my ponies, or standing in queues. My favourite time and place to think is first thing in the morning and last thing at night, tucked up snug and warm in my lovely soft bed. I especially like it if the rain is coming down in rods outside, hammering off the windows , and the wind howling down the chimney. That’s the joy of being a full-time writer – you can get up at 10.30 Monday to Friday and tell everyone you have been working and IT’S TRUE!

But the most important part of my creative process (apart from the actual writing, that is) is being bone idle. Only when I am doing nothing and have the time to gaze into space do I have the time to think about that article I read in National Geographic, that interesting comment/rant a friend of mine had on Facebook, the conversation I overheard on a bus, that book I really enjoyed and all the strands wind together and fuse into a bright, sparkling, idea that starts to develop over weeks and months into plot and character.

That is why I feel sad about children whose lives are packed. Over kids who have SCHEDULES. Schedules are something nobody needs or should have foisted on them before the age of 25. If there are any parents reading this who worry about stimulating their child’s imagination, about them wanting to reach their full potential, the best thing you can do is leave them alone. There is nothing wrong with being bored, there is nothing wrong with wandering about aimlessly. Parents seem to have a horror of their children being bored and fill their lives with after-school classes, days out, electronic gadgets and sports.  Yet they also want them to be original. That’s hard to do if you haven’t got time to breathe, much less think. I have a friend whose five-year-old daughter has after school classes every day. The child is exhausted every night and seems to spend all her time following instructions. While her parents love her dearly and spend a lot of money and time on her, I do feel sorry for this little girl who has no time to simply be a five-year-old.

It can be hard to do, though. I think just about all of us admire those people who seem to have boundless energy, who are never still, never idle and seem to achieve so much – success, wealth, fame. Magazines and reality TV shows seem to be full of people telling us they got where they are today because they worked HARD, 24/7 and we could be JUST LIKE THEM if we stopped being such wusses and demanded eight hours sleep a night. Sloth, we are taught, is a sin. Doing is everything. Thinking, once an art, seems to be viewed with contempt. But without the art of thinking, where do new ideas come from?

That’s why, when other people may tut at my lie ins, my hours of day dreaming when they are busy, busy, busy, I don’t feel guilty or embarassed. Because I’m working too.


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