I decided today that I'm going to blog about 'The Big Question'. No, I'm not about to go all Hitchhikers on you and talk about life, the universe and everything, and come up with a random two digit number as the surprisingly simple answer. In fact, it's almost the opposite. The question is much less ultimate, and the answer an entire novel, rather than anything as elegant as 42.
The Big Question I refer to is the one that all writers dread and all writers are asked, over and over again at events and readings. In terms of writers' talks, it really is the ultimate question, the one that everyone seems to want the answer to. Where do you get your ideas from?
There's a reason writers hate this question. It's the one question guaranteed to make a writer's face fall, and cause he or she to mumble something incoherent about life, the universe and everything, or claim an almost spiritual kind of inspiration guiding their hands over keyboard or dragging the pen along the page. The more sarcastic amongst these creatures may comment 'I buy them all from the ideas shop', and the more honest 'I really don't know.' The latter is about the truth of it and it's near impossible to describe the creative process in any quick, simple way.
But, now, I've come up with the perfect answer. Write about it! Create a character who is an artist of some kind, put her in a settling and write a novel. Spend the entire two hundred odd pages exploring the creative process, as well as moving the plot forward, setting scenes, adding complications and eventually resolving everything. When people ask refer them to said book. Not only does it mean one won't have to answer 'The Big Question', but also may result in further sales of said book. Win, win, win!
There's only one problem with that. One whole novel later and I'm not sure that it might not have been easier to say '27' and leave everyone to go away and work out what 'The Big Question' actually is, after all.
Empathy, I've decided, is important, and an ability to switch off and tune into the subconscious mind, hence the garbled explanations that seem to point to some weird, psychic automatic writing that even Yuri Gellar would find dubious. Mostly it comes from the actual writing itself. That sounds very chicken egg but it's true. The more I write, the more ideas I have. When I first sat down to write I had none; now I have folders and documents full of the things, sitting there peskily calling to me, telling me I'll never have time to write them all. Not that I'm really complaining. In a sense, ideas are like friendships. You can never really have too many of them, but if you try to focus on them all at once they will probably come to nothing.
If that doesn't help then, well, you're just gonna have to read the book.