Fan Mail Wednesday #1

In what I hope will become a recurring feature, I’ll take questions from actual fan mail and include my answers here.

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Jason asks, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Ideas are everywhere and anywhere, Jason. They come from my past and from my present. They come from things I actually see — and from my imagination. I do research for every book, and I usually stumble across ideas that way. One strange thing about ideas is that they often seem to come when I’m thinking that I’m not thinking! You know? Doing the dishes, taking a shower, times when the mind is (seemingly) not actively working on anything (and in my life, that’s a lot!). I think that’s why it’s essential for artists and writers to give themselves space, to daydream, to blob around, listen to music, not force the action. At least that’s what I tell my wife!

I don’t worry about running out of ideas. As long as I pay attention to the world around me, watch people, listen to what they say, daydream, and read a lot, I’ll always have ideas. How can you avoid them?

The real work is sitting down and writing.

To me, it’s weird when people talk about “having” ideas. As if it were like “having” a baby and that’s that, job over. Because the important thing is, well, raising that baby. Or working with that idea. Growing it, feeding it, letting it go. It’s not enough to “have” ideas. That’s the easy part. No, you’ve got to stick with those ideas through thick and thin. That’s the trick — all that parenting. Waking up at two in the morning, changing diapers . . . yuck.

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