Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Stuck? Clean Out the Catbox

Kitty gets a fresh place to crap and you may just find your scene.

Lemme 'splain. Ever have an exchange like this?

RANDOM PERSON: So, you're a writer.

ME: What? Did the scotch and social awkwardness give me away?

(Pause while Random Person tries to figure out if I'm kidding. I am not.)

RANDOM PERSON: Where do you get your ideas?

ME: Uh, in the shower?

The question asked is about content not context, of course, and we all have different sources for the muse inside our crazy crazy brains.

But I'm fascinated at how often ideas hit when I'm working out, drying my hair, or washing dishes.

I problem-solve tactically at the computer, at the foxhole level, stitching up story holes, tweaking dialogue, and whatnot.

But for big inspiration? Ideas for entire new scripts or knotty, large-scale challenges like how to rebuild a weak protagonist? More often than not those hit when I'm nowhere near that tyrant blank page. Say, folding laundry.

There must be something about how the noisy mind shuts down for these rote physical tasks that lets the remaining synapses churn away, burning background cycles. For me at least. And anything like going for a jog that helps mitigate Writer's Ass and gives a creative boost is an angel puppy in my book.

How about you? When or how do you get your ideas?


shahua said...

This is the exchange I usually get.

RANDOM PERSON: So, you're a writer?

ME: Uh, yeah.

RANDOM PERSON: why are you not famous?

As if the sheer fact that I've stated I'm a screenwriter, somehow, has made my brain a bucket for all the best ideas in the universe.

I wish! My ideas show up after much treadmill running, and, to the irritation of my boss, during "synergy meetings."

Steve Peterson said...

For me it's on long walks. Sometime during the 90 minutes my brain actualyl works around to the story and something clicks -- which is good because I can certainly use the exercise.

Bill Cunningham said...

For me, it's always Bill the Observer looking at a situation and saying, "What's the worst thing that could happen at this particular moment? What particular bodypart needs to fly off and hit someone to make this scene work?"

That, and I eat alot of red meat.

It could happen anywhere (and usually does). I've found the bathroom to be a particularly inspirational location. Perhaps because I'm always reading.

Working out? Hmmm.. going to haveto try that one day.

And yes, I get the "stare" a lot.

I went back to SC for a college reunion and there were the questions - you know the ones:

-- What's "fill-in-the-blank star" really like?
-- I hear there's a lot of freaks in Los Angeles...(not really a question, yet...)
-- So you work out of your house? -- What does your boss say about that?
-- How do you punch the timeclock?

Or my favorite - "It can't be too hard, sittin' around makin' shit up all day can it?"

John David Roberts said...

The last really solid idea came to me while trapped on a four-hour drive across Texas. Radio scan: country; country; country; again. But we already know what good stories lay down next to an electric steel.

This is the response I like:

R.PERSON: Anything I would have heard of?
ME: Oh, no.

And that Oh no can be delivered at eight ways, from "I'm so ashamed I admitted being a writer," to "Given who you are, that's as likely as winning the lottery," and all the shades of green in between.

Tim said...

You pretty much nailed mine in your first exchange. My best ideas really do come in the shower for some reason.

Of course, it might help to explain that I do my best work in the morning, and, obviously, I'm usually showering in the morning as well. So there's no doubt a corollary.

I also seem to have huge moments of inspiration when I’m at work. That can be annoying, especially if I’m in a meeting or something and really have an urge to get whatever struck me down on paper.

chris soth said...

In the shower is VERY common, I hear this all the time. Steven King has the best answer to "Where do your ideas come from?"

"Utica, New York."

Don't mean to sound like a plagiarist, and I've had LOTS of them, but, usually reading something...something TRUE, or hearing it on the news, that nugget of truth that I add the fictive twist to to make the movie...if I'm lucky.


Dr. Gori said...

For me, it's always been while vacuuming--especially for writing music. In your head, you can bend the white noise into any combination of sounds you want. And you can sing out loud without anyone around hearing. Too bad my condo's so small; takes hardly any time to clean it.