On the hunt for ideas

One day, when my son was 6, I watched him as he put on his socks.

He studied each of his toes, decided his big toe made for a good gun and pretended to spray the room with bullets. Then he examined the socks, put them on, studied the dinosaur design, realised they were inside out, so off they came and it began all over again. And then there was the other foot. All this while I stood, one eye on the clock, an ear out for the school bus which would arrive any moment.

I tamped down my frustration and, after dropping him off, wrote a piece on Patience in Parenting.

Another piece was born when I saw a mom getting wet in the rain with her children.

Ideas, really, are everywhere. They come from observation, from ‘living life’. Anything that affects me, moves me, makes me sad or angry or thoughtful, particularly anything that makes me smile or laugh – is an idea.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s in her book Big Magic has a rather poetic take on this. ‘..ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners.’ She says ideas are driven by the single impulse to be made manifest, which they can do only through human collaboration.

That thought gives me much comfort.

It’s the waking world that inspires me, not dreams. I am blessed with dreamless sleep. When I do dream I mix up people and places and timelines in a blend chaotic enough to send Sigmund Freud in a whirl.

Sometimes, conversations generate ideas. Short, long, casual, superficial or deep and meaningful. They are potential idea-triggers. And if you’re a bit of an introvert, well then, you’ll find conversations between the pages of books. Stories generate stories.

During one such conversation with Javed Akhtar, a leading Bollywood screenwriter and lyricist (It’s a bit of a flex to have met and interviewd him) I asked him the same question and he said, ‘Deadlines inspire me. When you’ve got to write, you just get down to it and write.’

A tough ‘Monikaesque’ friend who doesn’t let you falter would be an asset.

My writer’s block stems not from a lack of ideas but from what to do with them. I am unable to find the mindspace to allow them to take shape and form. And then there’s the skill required for the crafting of the piece.

It’s only when my mind is at rest that ideas find space to grow.

I’m curious, where do you get yours from? Do share. Specially if you’re a writer of fiction.

PS: Here’s a fun piece I did some time back on how ideas take shape.


This post is in response to the question:

99% of my story ideas come from dreams. Where do yours predominantly come from?

The prompt is given by the IWSG – a writers support group, with the purpose of sharing and encouraging. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

You can join here.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and Natalie Aguirre!

13 Replies to “On the hunt for ideas”

  1. I love how you slipped that cool interview JA in! What a wonderful opportunity to meet with this man of letters.
    I do believe that inspiration is all around us and it’s never wasted, especially if we capture the idea immediately. We can always expand on it later or even spark another person’s imagination!

  2. Listening to the book Big Magic was a revelation for me. I have been thinking of going back to it once again. Finding its mention in your post cements my will on deciding what to listen next.
    I agree with your take on the writer’s block. It happens to me too and then there was also a prolonged period where I could not even think of anything which could be called ideas for writing. These days I make it a point to sit at the writing/blogging desk once a week and pay adherence to my mind’s wanderings. My mind plays along as a happy playmate as long as I allow it to stretch just once a week.
    I am not sure what I wanted to say in my comment and how it has come out. I will come back to read your post a mom getting wet in the rain with her children.

    1. I like how you’ve come to an understanding with your mind – that you will bother it only once a week and then it has to play along. I’m glad it is cooperating. I love your comments Anamika because it’s like having an actual conversation with you where both of us are rambling :-).

  3. Every time I want to put my thoughts together, I read blogs/quotes on writing or Big Magic. I agree completely with what you’ve put down here. I also went ahead and read your post- mom getting wet, that resonated well with me. My husband is back in India now to help his ailing dad, and though a single child, all the elements in that post made sense to me. Wish I discovered more patience to deal with daily life. However, I agree that I have chosen to give in more because it makes it easier 🙂 Love this post and the other pieces. Now, if need be, I write during the craziest times to remember what I want to write, even if it doesn’t make sense at that moment.

    1. It’s hard being a mom and a writer but somehow it is during the periods of the greatest stress that we get the best ideas. It’s a great idea to write them down and work on them as and when one gets time.

  4. Good to read your blog after such a long time, Tulika. I have the same problem. There are plenty of ideas but shaping them into a cohesive read becomes a challenge at times. I usually gather a lot of ideas when I am traveling or am in a crowded public place by observing people and imagining their stories.

  5. Your words about writers block resonates with me. There are so many ideas that sometimes they are overwhelming. I don’t find words, or a way to string them together. Trains of thought running in parallel. For that I have started noting them down, creating categories so that when I get to write them, I don’t digress.

    I usually have dreamless sleep. And when I do dream I see a whole thriller movie in my dreams. I think I should hold back on reading too many James Pattersons novels.

  6. So, so relatable. I don’t believe in writer’s block. As you say, ‘Writer’s block stems not from a lack of ideas but from what to do with them.’ This is so true. There are so many ideas, only if I can organise my thoughts (and be a little disciplined in terms of writing). I wrote two Hindi flash fiction pieces recently, and that writing exercise was totally intuitive. One of them is inspired by my dream. I remember my dreams, and I’ve written some of my stories that are actually based on my dreams. I have a few dream ideas, but I don’t know what to do with them, as writing thrillers is not my forte.

    And I totally agree with Javed Akhtar (Wow, you’ve interviewed him!); for me, deadlines are the greatest motivator.

    1. Dream ideas would be so convenient, right? You get the entire feel of the story in one go.
      Lack of discipline is common among writers generally because we don’t make or consider writing our primary job. If we’d sit at it every day even for a few hours we’d get so much done. But that never happens. Sometimes I’m so caught up in life, days go by when I’ve written nothing at all.

  7. Love your ‘Monikaesque’ friend. We all need one in our lives. I agree with you about ideas in our daily lives but I seem to be failing in crafting stories out of them. You write beautiful stories and make writing look easy. I write fiction and my ideas come from my overactive imagination plus like you said the everyday life. It is always a pleasure to read your thoughtful posts.

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