Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the most common questions authors are asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?” You may have asked this question yourself, or at least thought about it, particularly if you have spent any time staring at a blank screen.

The reason, presumably, is that the person asking the question is struggling to come up with ideas of their own. And it may seem that an author, particularly a prolific one, has no shortage of them and might have some to spare. Or at least they can draw a map for others to follow.

But is that actually the case? Does someone who has ideas for books, for songs, for paintings, for inventions, or really for anything at all, establish a connection to a world of ideas?

What, exactly, is an idea? Some might characterize an idea as an external thing, like an apple you can pick from a tree. Others might say they are simply the logical conclusions from a series of statements. Or perhaps at the confluence of two seemingly disparate fields is where ideas can be found.

Whatever you think happens to be the nature of ideas, how might you direct someone to access them more easily? Is your imagination like a muscle, and the more you use it the easier it becomes to use? If you read more books, or have conversations with strangers, or go to museums, will inspiration come to you more readily?

Where do ideas come from?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What are the benefits of fiction? Where do shared ideas exist? When do you need inspiration?

What Book Has Had the Biggest Impact on You?

Of the books you have read, which one has meant the most to your life?

Share why if you wish.

Michael’s Answer:  Mine is Wendell Berry’s What Are People For?  This was the first book I read from Berry.  It changed how I saw myself in relation to the environment, the economy, and my love of growing food.

Lee’s Answer: There are lots of possible answers, and on a different day I might have a different selection. Today I’ll choose What It Is by Lynda Barry. The book is part creative guide, part art object, part memoir, and part philosophy text. I found it inspiring, challenging, and unforgettable.