There are two questions I’m always asked. The first is: Are you still writing? I know people mean well, but it would be the same as if I were to approach my doctor and ask: Are you still practicing? Or my plumber: Are you still plumbing?
Writing is what I do. I get up in the morning, go through my normal routines, then go to work. That work happens to be writing. Honestly, the question does annoy me as it implies that writing isn’t work, or that I can do it as a whim. And while I’d like to answer with something like that, I’m always very polite to say: Yes, I’m still writing.
The other question: Where do you get your ideas? That’s one all writers get, and it may be one of the hardest questions to answer concerning my career because I’m not always sure where my ideas come from. Sometimes they’re simply rattling around in my head, origin unknown. Maybe they come from an article I’ve read, or something I’ve seen on television. I listen to conversations around me (I prefer not to call it eavesdropping) and hear wonderful tidbits of stories that might expand into a scene or even a full book. I heard one just a few days ago in a restaurant. Then man sitting with his family, behind me, was explaining to them why he wasn’t going to fix spaghetti in 2019. If I wrote comedy, I’d have my plot. It was a funny story that could have been developed. (OK, when he fixes it, then serves it, there’s not enough left for him because his family is grabby and he’s slow to get to the table.) It might have turned into a very sad story, too, like a father not eating so he can afford to put a meal on the table for his family. Or something thoughtful, possibly memories of his mother’s spaghetti. From one little snippet of conversation came so many possibilities.
Another place I find my ideas—the people in my life. I just finished a book New York Doc, Thailand Proposal, which will be out later this year. The inspiration for the story was a dear friend, a doctor who took his practice on the road and practiced out of the back of his Jeep. His parents did the same. They did this on Indian reservations here, in the US, but I set my book in Thailand and used my friend as the inspiration. Also, in my nursing career, I worked with military doctors and the stories I heard and things I saw… Most of my books are based on someone or something I’ve known, known about, or watched because, in the end, when you look at reality, there’s usually a brilliant, adaptable story attached.
Here’s a little poem I read years ago. I believe it sums up quite nicely the whole process of finding the idea (with maybe a little larceny thrown in).
by Nance Hill
Beyond your perception, I’m full of deception;
From you, I will loot, filch and forage,
I’ll approach with a smile, and steal all the while;
The stash goes in notebooks for storage.
I’ll pilfer your grin, or the last place you’ve been,
Or your habit of slapping your knees,
The puns that you sprinkle, your lips as they crinkle;
Whatever I fancy, I’ll seize.
Perhaps I’ll abscond with a faux pas you’ve spawned,
Or a client you met on the job,
Your wild-patterned tie, the half-tear in your eye;
With a swipe of the pen, I will rob.
Then I’ll gather my plunder and rend it asunder,
Revise ‘til there’s only a hint.
You won’t know what I’ve taken until you’re quite shaken
To see that I fenced it in print.
OK, so maybe my taste in poetry isn’t sophisticated, but this little poem is oh-so true. If you’re a writer, admit it. Have you done some of that? I freely admit I have. And if you’re not a writer, better look out. We’re always looking for good ideas. You could be that idea!
As always, wishing you health & happiness!