Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Years ago, I taught a marketing class at our local community college. Students ranged from kids right out of high school to empty nesters re-entering the job force or looking to change careers. I based the lion’s share of the grade on a term project in which each student came up with a unique idea for a business and designed a marketing plan to address pricing, product, distribution, target audiences, and the like.

After I spent the better part of our first class explaining how to identify a solid business concept and the step-by-step marketing plan process, a young man in the back raised his hand.

“Where do I get these ideas?” he asked. “Do I just think them up in my head?”

Welcome to higher education. The short answer, of course, is “yes.” And today, whenever a reader asks me “where do you get your ideas,” I’m tempted to answer, “I think them up in my head.” I stop short, however, because I don’t want to piss off a valued fan. And I certainly don’t want to get beat up.

As a writer, it’s often difficult to pin down exactly how the ideas get into my head. A lot of it has to do with observation and focus. Here in Las Vegas, I’ve seen and heard the most outrageous stuff. All I have to do is jot it down. If folks knew I was evesdropping, they’d be more careful about what they say in public.

Beyond that, there’s a lifetime of information, large and small, tucked away in our subconscious minds, just waiting to be unleashed. I’m often astounded at what gets dredged up when I’m “in the zone.” Snippets of conversation from 40 years ago, a trivial experience that suddenly applies to a particular situation, a fleeting memory or an aroma or a feeling. It’s all there. You just have to learn to trust the process.

Readers often start a conversation with me by saying, “I have a great idea for your next book.” And sometimes they’re right. What they don’t realize is that I have a great idea for my next book, too. Actually, a file full of them. Probably more ideas than years left to write them. (That’s a depressing thought.) Ideas are important. But the magic is in the implementation.

More on this soon.