“How the heck did you come up with that?”
It’s a common question I get when talking about my latest ideas, and for years, my answer was a resounding “I dunno…just came to me.”
To a limited extent, the response is correct, but it suggests the process of ideation is much more passive or deus ex machina than it really is.
Ideas surround me, as they do you. They are in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that make up our moment-by-moment reality. They are in the streetcar in which I presently ride, the streets down which I presently travel.
In the dark-haired beauty two rows before me who is fixated on adjusting her hair rather than close the window through which the hair-mussing breeze blows. And in the armada of free-range humans who occupy the parkette we just passed, proving themselves houseless rather than homeless.
The challenge for many would-be writers is that these are starting points for ideas rather than fully fledged stories or subjects. These are the writers who wish to be reporters or chroniclers rather than explorers.
Think instead of these idea kernels as pieces of clay, as something that can be moulded into any of a thousand other shapes. Take the kernel and play with it for a while. Give yourself a chance to see what it feels like, smells like, sounds like, tastes like.
Twist it. Turn parts of it over. Reverse its halves.
What is something were feasting on Toronto’s homeless? Imagine a mobile service that will do your hair and makeup while you commute to work. What if a terrorist planted a bomb on a streetcar and it had to travel no slower than 50 mph? Or an aesthetician to the deceased in From Hair to Eternity.
All of these are probably bad ideas, but the ideas have evolved.
Twist it again. Mould it again. Press it onto something else, like so much Silly Putty, and see what sticks.
Keep the good. Set aside the bad. But keep working it until something you really like begins to show itself.
You have no idea the wonders you will discover.