When people ask me where I get my ideas for stories and I have no answer for them except; I keep my eyes open and “it comes to me.”
It’s true, there is nothing new under the sun, no unimagined ideas, no unshared topics. There is however an unnumbered ways of viewing those experiences.
Take Romeo and Juliet for example – of course Shakespeare penned it back in Elizabethan times but it was re-imagined in New York City’s gritty neighborhoods with street gangs instead of feuding families and ‘voila,’ West Side Story. I’ve seen other versions, one set against the backdrop of World War II where an American girl falls in love with a Japanese boy and the Disney entry that showcases Pocahontas’ and John Smith’s love as their people fight openly in the background. In fact, isn’t every romance story ever written about two people that fall in love and must struggle to find a way to become one despite their differences, their worlds, their friends and family?
The basic idea of love resonates as a ‘universal truth’ that most humans face at least once in their lives and each new author reflects that story onto the page through the filter of their own individual reality.
In “It,” Stephen King brings two now grown teenagers back together as adults and forces them to confront an evil they fought in their youth. As they battle this monster, they remember their love for each other and come together in the end. Yes, I said it; Stephen King rewrote Romeo and Juliet as a horror story. That is his own view of the world, or at least the one he uses as he writes.
So, back to me. I write what I know, what I see, what I’ve experienced; and that means I need to keep my eyes open for that element that will bring me to the page. I may be outside looking at the stars above me or watching a preview for a new show on CBS but both of those acts have brought memories or emotions to my mind and inspired stories.
So, it’s important I keep my mind open; that I observe and not just exist. In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls this idea ‘filling the well.’ Do something fun, something new, or something you love. And keep your mind open as you do. Fill your consciousness with the world around you. There are so many beautiful, and yes ugly and painful things around you. These are the things inspiration is made of.
Take that ‘inspiration’ and find its meaning inside you, this is where the ‘insight’ part comes in. Then invent something with it; something very individual, something your very own. The universal truth is there as your inspiration, but the other two ‘I’ words have turned it into something new.
I believe all three must be present to create. Why don’t you give it a try?