I’m going to get a little personal for a minute. I have always struggled with general anxiety. When I was a kid I remember coming up with all kinds of stories and I remember telling people about them and I remember getting laughed at. I stopped trying. Fast forward to adulthood where my anxiety got worse and I finally decided to do some therapy to figure out exactly where this anxiety was coming from. Once I got into it and started learning things about myself something just clicked. All of a sudden I had a huge rush of inspiration and creativity for story ideas. Learning how to let go of certain things had given me the confidence to finally allow myself to come up with ideas for short stories and novels. I felt so much better. I now have so many ideas in the works and I can’t wait to publish them for everyone to read. With that being said there are a few different ways I was able to come up with the ideas.
Most of my ideas come from dreams that I have. I have some really weird dreams. Some of them are like movies playing the whole night and I’m able to remember them and write them down. Others are just too weird to work with. “Until the Sun Came Up” was a dream that I had. I literally dreamt the whole thing and wrote it down the next morning. I also have an idea for a cult/thriller novel that came from a dream. I can’t wait to work on that one. It’s in the queue. I’ll tell you about one of the weird dreams that didn’t make the cut:
The dream was about a young couple who were in the audience on American Idol. Nicki Minaj’s sister was performing and she was a mess. Her clothes were dirty, torn and old. She was wearing a short, blonde pixie cut wig. Instead of singing a song she just got up there and started trash talking the audience, calling them names. Then Ryan Seacrest stopped her and said, “Just because no one likes you, it doesn’t mean you have to take it out on innocent people! You have to love yourself before others will love you!” Then he started crying and the audience collectively said, “Awwwwww!” So Minaj’s sister started rapping and it was tearful and angry. While she was rapping the couple looks at each other and remembers something that makes them sad so they get tearful. Then “Oh Mickey You’re so Fine” starts playing in the background. The couple leaves the show and goes to an old abandoned house. They go inside and sit on the floor holding each other and sobbing. An old woman walks into the room carrying a small, wooden chest. She says, “I know you miss him. I saved this box just in case.” She sets the box down in front of the couple. The woman opens it, reaches in and pulls out her dead baby. She holds it to her chest and continues to sob.
I’m telling you, they just get weirder. I think my brain has so many ideas and for a while my waking brain was so beat down by my anxiety and fear of being laughed at or rejected that none of these ideas would come to me. That is, unless I was asleep where my brain had free reign and could come up with whatever it wanted. I now have the ability to come up with stuff while I’m awake and it feels pretty good. I have a few ideas for some monster stories, I love monsters. I’m currently working on a novel who’s main character is a homicide detective who gets an ugly wake up call when she discovers that the devil can in fact make you do it.
That brings me to another source of inspiration. I got the idea for the detective story from a girl I used to work with. She and I were having a conversation about God and the Devil and how our opinions differed on the subject. I was so inspired by our conversation that I decided to give my main character her last name. I won’t tell you here, you’ll have to wait and find out. I’m hoping she’ll read this and remember our conversation.
Other ways I get my ideas are of course from other peoples’ work; from TV shows, music, podcasts and books. I learn a lot from a writing stand point on how to craft my stories and I’m able to see, hear, or read other stories and think ‘but what if it went this way?’ or ‘what would happen if it had been this person instead?’
Inspiration is literally all around you. What I have learned is you just have to have an open mind and a willingness to see it. You also have to have the confidence in yourself that your version of the story or your idea is worth telling. What inspires you?
I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you. -Asha Dornfest