After I retired from newspaper reporting a friend asked me if I would keep on writing.I said I would, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of stuff I pounded out as a journalist. I told him I planned to keep on writing my outdoor columns and I would try my hand at everything from novels to poetry.
“Where will you get your ideas?” he asked.
I told my friend I was pretty confident I wouldn’t run out of ideas to write about. After all I’ve been writing outdoor columns for twenty years. People thought I’d have said everything there is to say about hunting and fishing long ago but I’m still coming up with fresh ideas.
“Where do they come from?” he asked.
I had to think on that for a moment. This is something I’ve just taken for granted –that I’ll always have something to write about. The answer is really simple. Ideas are all over the place, just floating around out there. All I have to do is be receptive.
My attitude is that I am a WRITER. It’s how I look at almost everything in the world around me. And that world is just chock full of ideas.
Inspiration can be as easy as cleaning my car. I mean … what is it that makes an outdoor person’s car trash different from everyone else’s? The answer to that was a very funny outdoor column.
It’s all about the what ifs and small discoveries. It’s tripping over an unexpected rhyme or finding a good name for a character or a place or a road. Sometimes it’s the result of two or more things coming together – maybe years apart – and that collision becomes an inspiration. I’ve come to learn that ideas are attracted to conversations the way butterflies are attracted to flowers. So I’m an unabashed eavesdropper.
I believe all a writer or any other creative person has to do is decide to be open to the muse, to be ready to receive that idea.
The other part of being receptive is not losing the ideas that come to you. Inspiration can be kind of fragile, I’ve learned. You receive an idea while you’re busy doing something and you develop the concept a bit in your mind … but you’re busy doing that other thing. Then later that evening or maybe the next day you remember (or maybe not) that you had a great concept for something – but youcan’t, for the life of you, remember what it was!
Ideas are pretty easy to lose.
So what I do, I told my friend, is I carry a little pocket notebook and I use it to capture and hold those ideas as they come to me. Later, at home, I copy them down in a larger notebook of ideas if I’m not going to write them right away.Now I have a place to go if I should temporarily run out of fresh ideas.
The thing is, ideas, when you’re open to them, are so plentiful I never seem to run out, so the notebook just keeps getting larger. I told my friend I now had about five hundred ideas listed, just waiting for me to get around to writing them.
“You know what?” he said. “I think you should write about that.”
“Five hundred and one,” I said, writing the idea down in my little pocket notebook.