by Diana Raab
Whether your chosen genre is fiction, nonfiction or poetry, you probably have a unique story to tell. Reliving and retelling childhood stories are common platforms for writers. We often go back to childhood because it was a time filled with pain, joy or laden with unanswered questions.
More often than not, there is a story within each of us yearning to be told. Once in a while, we all get stumped and need some jolting about the story we want to tell.
Often times, the best ideas come to us when we’re not sitting at our desks, but rather, when we are out and about.
When you are away from your desk it is important to be alert to seemingly mundane incidents; odd discoveries and remarks made by others in both social and work settings. To document the sense of awareness, it is important to carry a writer’s notebook to jot down any ideas you may have or something that catches your attention. Your notebook can be one that fits in your pocket or a larger one for your computer bag or purse.
Whatever subject you choose to write about, you will soon discover that the creative journey is similar to life’s journey—it is unpredictable, unstructured, mysterious and laden with miracles.
In her book, Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002), Margaret Atwood says this, “Writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out into the light.”
Here are some ways to get story ideas:
1) Each day, read at least one magazine or newspaper with your journal beside you; be ready to capture intriguing story subjects. Sometimes a particular subject can send you surfing the Internet, which might even lead you to another story idea. Be open-minded and have fun.
2) Keep a folder either in your drawer or on a computer file called, “Story Ideas.” Preserve for future reading or interest. You might find similarity or connections among all your subjects of interest, which could offer a clue to your deepest fascinations.
3) Ponder and write about what goes through your mind during the course of a day. William Faulkner said, “An artist is a creature driven by demons. He has a dream. It anguishes himself so much he must get rid of it.”
4) Think about and write about your heroes, heroines or villains.
5) Read the work of others who inspire your creativity. In her book, Writing, Marguerite Duras says, “Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you. To be without the slightest subject for a book, the slightest idea for a book, is to find yourself, once again, before a book. A vast emptiness. A possible book. Before nothing. Before something like living, naked writing, like something terrible, terrible to overcome.”
In the end, most of us write to know ourselves. Even our darkest—or unknown—thoughts, memories and fears can transform to reveal value and meaning to us. And with any luck, to our readers as well.