• Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 13 comments

    No really, where do you get your ideas? Seems like a cliché question, but there’s a reason why it’s frequently asked. Exchanging resources with fellow writers only serves to broaden everyone’s perspective. The following are my personal fail-safes, the things that always urge me to write.

    The city bus provides great fodder for characters and situations. You’ve got people from all walks of life stuck in a small space. It’s a real-life comedy sketch. Taking the Greyhound bus also makes for off-the-wall anecdotes. It might entail getting stuck sitting next to someone who smells like sour booze and talks about his god-given superpowers, but the experience can pay off. If anything, you can look at it as one advantage of somewhat involuntarily sharing your space. You get to hear the wackiest and saddest things all on one day trip.

    Also, I love traveling. When I leave my hometown, I  feel displaced, anonymous, and free to observe my surroundings. Physically distancing myself from life’s rat race really reinvigorates my writing. Best of all, I feel like a kid in a theme park while I’m traveling―everything looks shiny and new, and I want to write about it. A change of scenery can dramatically affect the tone and mood of one’s writing. Different places really do give off different vibes; my favorite place for writing is New Orleans for its delirious, Old-World energy. Much more conducive to what I write than laid-back Austin.

    Finally, I find small town antique stores, museums, and cemeteries fascinating and full of potential stories. Maybe the goth kid in me just never died, but if it’s old or creepy I love it. The history of a vintage dress, ancient coin, or tombstone could fill volumes. And I’ve seen some weird things in antique stores, ranging from a mummified turtle to a Necronomicon-like tome. Great for urban or dark fantasy, which is the kind of stuff I write.

    So, I’d like this to be the start of a conversation. Do you have any unique places, media, or activities that put you in the mood to write?


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.



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    David Duhr

    Foreign places work well for me, too. New cities, motels/hotels. Trains. I love writing on trains. Something about the smooth motion, where you can see the landscape rushing by but can’t really feel yourself moving. And for some reason, I always feel the urge to write after leaving a movie theater. Especially when I go in during a late afternoon in winter and come out two hours later into darkness. I’d probably also write well in the actual theater … but who does that? Hell, maybe I’ll try it someday. Take a little penlight and notepad to the movies and… Read more »


    I do love that “fresh out of the movies” feeling, especially when you’ve just seen the last showing of the day. If it’s a good movie, my mind is already in a reflective state and much more receptive to exploring new ideas.

    Jose Skinner

    Second floor of Motel 6 in Fort Stockton, TX, looking west. Very inspiring.

    Also, bicycling. Something about the kinetic activity. I suggest stopping when you’re ready to execute, though.

    David Duhr

    So let’s bicycle out to Fort Stockton this weekend and see what’s what.

    David Duhr

    When I click on your name, Jose, it takes me to http://comingsoon. I can’t wait, man.


    I’ve been wanting to go to Big Bend, and when I do I”ll check out that second story view. One of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen was from the Wyatt Earp Inn & Hotel in Lebo, Kansas on my way home from Minneapolis. There’s nothing much between you and the horizon, so you get to see the whole sunrise unfold.

    Leah Kaminsky

    All of those places are great for me, too, especially public transport and new places, whether in my own town or in another country. I also get idea for comedy pieces by riffing with likeminded friends as well as by noticing when I’m annoyed about stupid everyday things. When I teach, my students give me ideas for dialogue, characters, and feelings. Running helps me, especially when I’m cooling down and am more ready to notice things. I also do very well when everyone around me seems to be going in one direction, and my emotions are going another. Craving solitude… Read more »


    What grade do you teach? I used to mentor and tutor 4th-8th graders, and I loved listening to them talk.

    Wesley Belk

    I agree with David, I get a lot of my ideas while I travel, or at least it has helped in reinforcing some ideas I already had in place! But a lot of my influence comes from comic books, anime, manga, sci-fi/fantasy books & movies and a little bit of real life!


    I’m with you on sci-fi/fantasy and comic books (I’m super picky with anime and manga). Do you read any Neil Gaiman?

    […] hell is Duhr,” and Jenna, Katie, Michelle, et aliae, have provided, and will continue to provide, fresh, interesting and amusing […]

    […] hell is Duhr,” and Jenna, Katie, Michelle, et aliae, have provided, and will continue to provide, fresh, interesting and amusing […]

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