Friday, December 14

Where Ideas Come From And The Conspiracy Against Nothingness

Where Ideas Come From And The Conspiracy Against Nothingness

I love Elizabeth S. Craig's twitter feed! Whenever I want to read an article on the craft of writing I go and pick a few links from her twitter feed and browse.

There's one thing I love more than her twitter feed, though, and that's her blog. Today she wrote about something I've been thinking about, something I was going to write about: how we get our ideas. Elizabeth writes:
Lately, I’ve had ideas bursting out of me at crazy times of the day: frequently when I’m doing something else.

I’m driving a car and am struck by three or four ideas or bits of dialogue or plot points or character names. I was honked at yesterday while dreaming at a stoplight (particularly irksome for me because I'm usually the honk-er and not the honk-ee).

I’m having a conversation with someone and get ideas.

I’m falling asleep (this is happening on a daily basis now) and getting ideas. (The Importance of Doing Nothing)
I know what she means. I've been fortunate and had the time to direct my own activities lately, to pursue what I'm really truly deep-down interested in and, right now, ideas are jumping out at me from everywhere. And I'm finishing the stories! (* knock on wood *)

Of course I'm not bored, but the key is that I have time. Time to sit and mull things over, to puzzle out whether certain ideas fit together; in short, to pursue what engages me, what interests me.

Elizabeth S. Craig talks about how children--and certainly adults--are often viewed as wastrels if they want to just sit and think, just sit and dream. She writes:
The funny thing (here in the States, anyway) is that free time, where you’re just doing nothing, isn’t particularly valued.

My son, for instance, was involved in way too many activities last year. He was gone most of the time—day in and day out, on weekends, and in the evenings. He was drained, so I pulled him out of one of the main time-stealing culprits—marching band.

I ran into one of the other marching band parents and she asked me about it. I said that he was too busy and was too rarely at home.

“Well, what’s he going to do with that free time?” she asked.

I just blinked at her. Of course I was the wrong person to ask this question of. “Whatever he wants to,” I said. “Stare off into space if he wants to. It's free time."

“He’ll be bored,” she said.

“That might be a good thing.”(The Importance of Doing Nothing)
I agree!

I've read several times that the best thing you can do for a child is to make sure they have time to dream, and I believe that.

As Elizabeth points out, so did A. A. Milne:
Here’s a bit of dialogue where Christopher Robin explains to Pooh that he won’t be around as much anymore (he’s being sent off to boarding school):

I'm not going to do nothing anymore."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much. They don't let you." [1]

There does seem to be a conspiracy against nothingness.
I wanted to get that last bit in there because, well, it's a great line, isn't it? "A conspiracy against nothingness." I hope Elizabeth won't mind my borrowing it for my title. :)

1) The House at Pooh Corner. A.A. Milne. 1928.

Other articles you might be interested in:

- The Structure Of Short Stories
- The Dark Art Of Critiquing, Part 1: What Makes A Story Good?
- 12 Tips On How To Write Antagonists Your Readers Will Love To Hate

Photo credit: "Between the Dark and a Light Place" by Neal. under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. I've run into far too many people who think you have to go go go or you're a screwup. Sometimes we need time and space for reflection. It's in these moments that we figure out who we truly are.


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