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The Oft Asked Question

If there’s one writer question I get asked repeatedly, its “Where do you get your ideas from?” The short answer? I read…a lot. I mean all the time. In the morning, during the day, in the bath and car, and in bed before I fall asleep. For edification and pleasure (not that pleasure reading can’t also be edifying!). I read news, scientific, and opinion articles. Religious texts. Historical nonfiction. Biographies. Short stories. Classical literature. Science fiction and nonfiction. Children’s lit. Cookbooks. And even trash novels. I have two degrees in what basically boils down to reading and writing about what you read, so it makes sense.

The Long Answer

I read a lot, but I also think about what I read. For a long time. Twenty years ago I read David Copperfield and I’m still thinking about the character of Aunt Betsey (“Stuff and Nonsense!”) and whether or not the narrative autobiographical frame of the novel actually works. And while this novel is at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of time to digest, that’s sort of the point, at least for me. I like to think of this part of the process as a slow-simmer stew that takes all day to cook. Add a little garlic, some herbs and veggies, and let the mind do its thing.

When the Stew is Done Simmering…

As a writer, I have a goal in mind. That goal? To write new stuff. Hopefully good stuff. Stuff someone else will want to publish. So say I’m reading a science fiction novel about climate change and in it the narrator is talking about organizations with dark wings and he happens to mention the Tzadikim Nistarim. I read his bit about the history of this mythical group of people, then go down a wiki hole and BOOM! The possible existence of 36 righteous people in the world at any given time who may or may not know each other and whose very existence keeps the world from ending? I need to write about that!

And while this is just one example of many, a lot of my story ideas are a direct result of my reading. I find some topic or idea I’m interested in, explore it more, and find an angle that I want to explore through writing.

And on that Note…

Things I’ve Read Recently:

The Rig Veda

No Name by Wilkie Collins

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Richard III by Shakespeare

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel

Guesthouse Literary Magazine

Umbrella Factory Literary Magazine

Untoward Literary Magazine

Any fellow writers want to sound off in the comments? What inspires you? What’s the number one writer question you get asked?

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