Out of gas or where do ideas come from?

I’ve been feeling very out of sorts and worn out these past two weeks.

Partly this is because of a translation job, which mainly requires translating a lot of e-mails sent back and forth at every time of the day and night between people who utterly fail to communicate. Any time I switch on the computer there’ll be at least one of those e-mails, maybe two or three waiting to be translated and passed on. Everything is always super-urgent and still you know that there’ll be only more e-mails and yet more, because those people couldn’t possibly understand each other less if they didn’t bother with a translator at all.

What is more, one of my classes this year is full of deeply troubled kids. There are kids from broken families, kids whose parents are just going through a divorce, even a girl who has been in foster care since she was a baby and whose foster parents are old enough to be her grandparents. Mostly, these kids need someone who’ll listen to them and who takes them seriously, because the adults in their lives can’t or won’t do that. Whenever I’ve taught that class, I feel emotionally exhausted.

Plus, I have two aphthous ulcers at the moment, which is normally a sign that my immunity system is out of whack. And trust me, if you work in a school on a regular basis, you don’t want your immunity system out of whack.

In the meantime, there seems to be something in the air, for John Scalzi, Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear have all posted about ideas, where they come from and why there’s never any shortage of them.

For me, ideas can really come from anywhere. A snippet of overheard conversation, a song, an image, a “what if…?”, a juxtaposition of random words, thinking “Hey, I’d like to write genre X, maybe with a dash of Y and Z”, an intriguing blurb for a book I’m not going to read or a film I’m not going to watch, a books/film/TV show that had a marvelous idea hidden somewhere inside and squandered it, etc… The most vivid and most promising ideas are those where an entire scene pops into my head with setting, dialogue and characters and I just have to transcribe it and see where it goes.

However, there is always one thing that an idea needs to graduate from idea to possible story and that is at least one character who speaks to me, metaphorically or sometimes even literally. Without a character, all I have is setting and maybe plot. It’s Frankenstein’s monster without the spark of electricity that brings it to life.

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One Response to Out of gas or where do ideas come from?

  1. Pingback: Mental Vomit Judo « Awesome.

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