- James Aichinger
Where Do My Ideas Come From?
Inspiration's a tricky thing. Like a butterfly it hovers tantalisingly close, but just far enough away to slip between your fingers when you grab for it. What way did I find to trap it? I didn't, I found a way to let it flutter inside.
One of the very first questions everyone always asks is where I get my ideas. If I am feeling sarcastic I will tell them that I got them at a shop. If I am feeling honest I will tell them that I am not always sure. There are so many answers and all of them hold a grain of truth, but I will tell you as much as I can in the hope that you can find them yourselves.
When I first began writing I was like all teenagers, despereately trying to stitch together a story without really understanding what one was. I knew the basic concept; it had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, as well as a theme. It was the last point that I was always stuck on. What kind of theme should it be?
I watched films as a child and read a number of books, and I remembered what stirred emotion within me. So I began pulling those various parts together. But, like a child trying to build a car out of a dozen things they found lying around, I found that the ideas I had stolen didn't work together. My first attempt was a disaster for which I was paying all the way through school.
I had my own ideas, I always had. They came to me when I listened to music or when I just sat and stared into the fire. But no matter what I did, I couldn't translate the pictures into words.
When I took up the metaphorical pen again however, I had found something new: the works of Terry Pratchett. If Shakespeare was the original wordsmith then, to his followers, Terry Pratchett was a master craftsman. His way with words was second to none, both in painting pictures in the mind and in exploring the quirks of the English language. But more importantly, especially in his later books, Terry Pratchett was an expert at making his stories flow along a theme.
So when I started writing again, I drew on what I had learnt from him. Any of his followers who read my books will undoubtedly see echoes of his style in my own (though not now nor ever as good as his). But he inspired me once again to tell my story and he gave me the tools to do it. I started appreciating the subtlety of words; their sound, shape and texture. This led me to be inspired by what I heard, to fit the words to the music I had been hearing all along inside my head.
In all honesty though, I still do not know exactly where my ideas come from. I know things that bring them out and I have listed them above, but I do not know where they began.
Anything can start an idea. A smell, a taste, a touch, a feeling; they all feed in like metal flowing into a crucible, but what makes the mold?
Even now I cannot call on my inspiration at will. But in many ways that's what makes it so precious and beautiful. It is not a tap I can simply turn on but a creature that is wild and unpredictable, waiting to be approached. It can turn and flee or it might let you ride it, but you are not its master and you must never believe that you are because it will throw you off and trample your work into the dirt. When you ride it, you ride it wherever it takes you, there are no reins and no way of steering. But if you do, it will show you wonders that you never knew existed.
I have always said that my story writes itself. It is a story waiting to be told, born from the heart of humanity.
So in the end I have no answers to the simplest of questions. I do not know where my ideas come from. They are built of all I have experienced, from a design I do not comprehend. But I know how to lure them in and I often marvel at what they create.