Monday, August 18, 2008

What's the Big Idea?

Another blog chain has begun and this time I am in the middle. Today's topic - where do you get your ideas? The previous post can be found at Mary Lindsey's Weblog.

I have to admit that I found this topic difficult, not in the same "I'm harboring a dark secret" way as the last topic concerning genres did, but more in a drawing a blank kind of way.

My first instinct is to say something glib like, "Oh, I get my ideas at the end of the season when they go on sale 2-for-1." Really though this is just cover because my real response is to kind of shrug and say, "Ughh... hmmm... well, um, I.... hmmm."

In an effort to avoid being either glib or astoundingly inarticulate I am going to dig a little deeper, draw some comparisons to other things that have questionable relevance to this topic and see how that works out.

Metaphor/Analogy Thingy #1

If you have been on planet earth within the past week you have probably heard the name Michael Phelps somewhere between one to oh, I don't know a conservative estimate might be somewhere in the low thousands. And while the record-breaking eight gold medals he won might be the biggest story about him, I'd have to say that his insane 12,000 calories a day diet is a close second. The amount of food he consumes would (and has) made other people sick. The craziest thing is that most of the food he eats is the stuff the rest of us are told to avoid: sweets, carbs, and even fried stuff. He has to eat like this because he burns so many calories and spends so much time in the pool that when he's out of it he needs to get as many carbs into his system as quickly as possible.

In the same way that Michael Phelps indiscriminately fuels up with food, I do the same with information. TV, Internet, books, newspaper, back of the cereal box, overheard conversation at the grocery store, facebook updates, phone conversation with mom, husband telling me about his day at work - if I'm not writing, then I am information gathering. My friend Heather from film school used to say, "you have to feed the machine," and I know one of the chain bloggers currently on hiatus would agree with me as well. Michael Phelps needs calories to burn while he's swimming, and similiarly I information to burn while writing.

What happens to all that info once it is in my head brings us to:

Metaphor/Analogy Thingy #2:

My husband and I went to the grocery store together yesterday for our weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many leftovers we eat) shopping trip. It was about halfway through the trip as I stood staring at the jams and jellies for several minutes that my husband accused me as he inevitably always does during these trips of putzing. I wasn't putzing, of course, I was trying to decide whether the apricot preserves that the recipe for Monte Cristo sandwiches called for would be best or if I should go with mango, as some of the recipe reviews suggested. Then on top of that I was looking at the different options for those two. (I won't keep you in suspense, after I explained the dilemma to my husband we chose apricot and with the leftover spiral sliced ham, a bit of brie, sandwiched between what is essentially french toasted bread it was pretty freaking delicious.)

I also wasn't putzing as my husband accused me of doing - I had a list and I had coupons and I was trying to make sure that I was using both. Which is not to say that on other occasions I haven't been a terrible putz - in fact I am notoriously putzy when I walk into a Target (especially the Super Target with the grocery section that we have around these parts) - I walk through the doors with the intention of purchasing something specific and then almost immediately something shiny catches my eye and the next thing I know I'm walking up and down the aisles of Target, looking at all the pretties and wondering what exactly I came in there to buy in the first place.

This is also my writing process. The information that I gorged on is what fills the store, that first flash of an idea for a story is what sends me in, and then I just wander the aisles picking up a bit of this and a bit of that. Okay, there is the occasional stab at structured thinking - of figuring out where the plot is going, but even for that I only have what's on my shelves to go off of. Also, while other minds or stores, might carry these same ideas, mine are still going to be uniquely my own because they are filtered through my store's own corporate mission statement: I believe most people are good at heart, I believe the bad guys that exist should get their asses kicked, and I believe in happy endings.

Speaking of endings, I think I'll stop here. You can find the next blog in this chain over at Archetype Writing.


  1. Great post, Kate!

    "Putzy" is one of my favorite nicknames for my husband. :)

  2. LOL. Putzy is just one of those truly excellent words.

  3. I'm always amazed by your insight. I feel so insignificant and wonder how I managed to put words to paper. Seriously. This was AWE-some! Thanks for sharing. I loved the bit about information gathering. So true. My kid now scribes for me in the car because it "freaks him out when I drive and write at the same time."

    My response? Well, I have none. :)

  4. 1. What a great entry. My God, you included analogies and an ongoing corporate theme! All hail Kate!

    2. ROTFL about Elana's scribe kid.

  5. Well done, Kate. I love the Phelps analogy.

  6. Wow. That was deep. And I think I have a new favorite word: putzing. :-)

    And 12,000 calories a day. Heck, I need to take up swimming.