inspiration, long walks and an ice cream cone

“Where do you get your ideas?” must be one of the most common questions asked of authors (along with “why do you want an agent why don’t you do it yourself?”  and “Did you know how many rejections JK Rowling/Katherine Stockett had?”  Yes I bloody do okay?).

But the ideas question fascinates me.  I have had ideas for novels for as long as I can remember.  The question is not where do the ideas come from but how to store them for later and then turn it into a full-scale book with a plot.  That is much harder.  I believe everybody has ideas for novels, most people either don’t recognise them as such or if they do, decide for better or for worse, not to do anything with them.

A random list of places I have had ideas for novels or stories

  • Watching a middle-aged man gently help a very elderly gentleman in a wheel chair eat an ice cream cone in the park  (The Dorothy Summer)
  • Re-reading a childhood book (Timesmudger)
  • A discussion on the radio about who or what is the devil (The Signature)
  • The front cover of a paperback novel (The Pensillia)
  • Endless discussions in the media about the takeover of social media and the internet (Untitled apocalyptic novel)
  • A talk at the Edinburgh book festival about tax havens (Romilly)
  • Early morning daydreams about idioms and phrases (Killing Time)

Some are still in the ideas stage and  may never come to fruition.  That is where the hard work comes in.  When I first started writing I thought it was utterly ridiculous when I heard authors say things like “the book wrote itself”, “I let the characters take over”.  You’re writing the flipping book for goodness sake it’s got nothing to do with the characters, you tell them what to do.  But I discovered that I don’t.  It really is up to the characters, they decide what to do and all I can do is tell their story.  The main outline of the plot notwithstanding I really don’t know what’s going to happen before I get to the end.

Having said all that, they do need some help – essentially I do have to sit down at my laptop and help them along.  Thus far, even my incredibly independent and bloody minded characters have not perfected the art of writing the book whilst I have a G&T and nibble a few olives.  Sometimes I am desperate to sit down and write, this is usually when I have a hundred and one other things that really do have to be done if life is to carry on as normal and my family are to eat and have the occasional clean pair of knickers.  When I have a clear day ahead of me the blank page can be rather scary.

Which is where walking the dogs comes in.  Dog walking is one of those things I really enjoy when I am doing it but I really don’t feel inclined to do when I could be sorting the ironing instead.  Yet once outside where I can do nothing other than think ideas come flooding through.  I don’t think I have ever come back from a dog walk without a head full of ideas and a burning desire to get on and write.  Unfortunately I usually have to start the school run….. need to reschedule the dog walks I think.

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11 responses to “inspiration, long walks and an ice cream cone

  1. Lovely post Gillie, I also get my best ideas for things in the great outdoors, but mainly in the shower or at 3am.

  2. Great post. Walking the dog is a great way to find inspiration! Having an ice cream cone would work too! My inspiration comes from many places and sometimes when I least expect it.

  3. When I have a clear day ahead of me the blank page can be rather scary.

    Yes, and that’s when many people (me included) start inventing little tasks that have to be done around the place. Procrastination is dreadful when I know I have eight or so clear hours to devote to a project. For that reason I like to divide up my time into smaller blocks.

    Regarding ideas, I think that there are a few stages in taking ideas to fruition: 1) Having the idea; 2) Recognising that it’s worth storing away, then doing so; 3) Revisiting it after a bit of time to see if the enthusiasm for it is still there; 4) Working out what format the idea is best suited to; 5) The hard work of turning it into a tangible product (e.g. writing a novel, creating an artwork). I keep a journal in my bedroom to jot down ideas that come to me late at night, otherwise I would forget them by morning.

    • The problem I have with the middle of the night notebook is legibilitly. I always used to write down my dreams but I didn’t want to wake up enough that I couldn’t get back to sleep again so I would write in the dark. Reading them the next day was always somewhat of a challenge 🙂 Having said that, I have notebooks with me at all times,even a single word can be enough to jog the memory and give me something to work with later.

  4. I’m absolutely with you on the dog walking thing. Most of my ideas that don’t come from dreams come from dog walks.

  5. I can relate to some of the points you have made. I have never written a novel however I have recently published a collection of my poetic writings and I am in the process of editing my first motivational book. I must agree the inspiration is everywhere. This post is great!

  6. Nice read. The G&T reminds me of Hemmingway… a little drink seems to open the creativity sometimes! And walking… even if it’s not about writing, walking seems to help me think of how to resolve many different things!

  7. Walking is wonderful therapy. I once took it to slightly too much of an extreme …. do make sure everyone knows where you are if you are going for a long walk!

  8. I agree with the importance of stretches of unstructured time being important for creativity, in fact I just heard about a study that showed that parents today need to consider allowing more unstructured time for their kiddos, because kids aren’t developing creatively as they used to. Walking the dog certainly should do it!

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