You know the one.
The smart ones dress it up in different language, but it always comes back to….
“Where do you get your ideas?”
And there’s that groan from the audience and then laughter.
I feel sorry for the person asking, because yeah, it’s an old chestnut, but hey, everyone wants to know, right?
I asked Slash—not to name-drop or anything——where he came up with his riffs and that’s basically the same question.
And he shrugged.
Which is a perfectly legitimate answer, at least to me.
So, when I get asked, I tell them—like I tell anyone who asks this, from little kids in libraries to little old ladies at book signings—the same thing.
They are everywhere.
You just have to tune your antenna to receive them.
Sometimes, you’ve tuned it too well to ever turn it off again.
Same with, “Why do you write?”
Years ago— this was right at the time that my Romance Novel-writing ‘alter-ego’ Vivian Brooks had been outed by some rag— I was onstage with a bunch of other Romance Writers (I didn’t want to be there but they threw a wad of cash at me) and we were having the same old Q&A that’s inevitable at these things.
And we got The Question.
And we all tried to answer it, in our own way,
Writing is like breathing, one of them said, it was just natural to her.
“It’s like being a heroin addict” I told them to gasps and clutching of figurative and literal pearls.
( I was going through my ‘rebellious counterculture’ phase then, even though I was in my thirties and married. I’ve since mellowed out.)
Needless to say, I wasn’t ever asked back.
It’s true,though (And I say this as a former Oxycontin addict—hey, it was the 80s— so I know.)
Writing and Oxy are great for a while, then the thrill wears off, then it becomes a chore and you decide to take a break.
And you start getting itchy after a day or so, to use a cliche analogy.
You see things out there in the world and you automatically think, “Man, that’d go great in a story” and then “Oh yeah, we don’t do that anymore.”
And you go back eventually, because that’s all you now know; you’ve trained yourself to look at the world through a certain lens, be that Junkie or Writer.
And people seem to find that romantic or Byronic or something.
And it isn’t.
It’s a huge pain in the ass.
If I could have looked at the world through the eyes of an Investment Banker, I would’ve preferred that.
At least that pays pretty well, in most cases.
I can’t complain, though.
My ‘playing pretend on paper’—my Conservative Dad’s words—- has given me a lake view and a writing hut where the kids’ swing-set/slide used to be.
Not so bad.