People who are not remotely creative or artistic often ask where creative folks “get their ideas” for what they create. Where do writers get ideas for stories? Where to illustrators get ideas for paintings? Where do musicians get ideas for songs?
As I said, the only people who ever ask this same old question are people who are not remotely creative. To them, the notion of conjuring novels and paintings and music out of thin air is unimaginable. Surely, some great mythic forces must be at work here! WHERE DO YOU GET THESE CRAZY IDEAS!? WE MUST KNOW!
What they don’t know is, “ideas” are the easiest part of all.
For people who are born with an innate creative streak – well, let me rephrase that – everyone is born with it. For people who maintain the innate creative streak they had since childhood, the “idea” is not the hard part. When a person has an active imagination, coming up with ideas is easy. Ideas are simple. Ideas are a constant flow. They never cease. They never dwindle. They never subside. Ideas are haunting you morning, noon and night, day in and day out, waking you from slumber to sketch it down on a notepad, interrupting you while you are stuck in traffic, making you space-out during conversations on dinner dates. Ideas are neverending. Getting the ideas isn’t hard at all.
The hard part is making sense of them. The hard part is constructing a useful bit of art around that idea.
For example, back when I began to write my Vampire Noctuaries books in 1993, I hit upon the idea of mixing Celtic faerie myths with vampires. That type of story is commonplace in 2013. Back 20 years ago, in 1993, it was unheard of. No one was doing anything like it. It was a great idea. It was a cool idea. It was an evocative idea. But that’s all it was – an idea. In and of itself, it’s not a story. Simply getting the idea “Hey, what if someone wrote a vampire story where the vampires are dark faeries?” doesn’t give you anything. You still have no plot. No characters. No nothing. You just have a concept, maybe an emotion, and a few neat images might pop in your head.
Ideas? Ideas are the easy part.
Where do you get your ideas?
The ideas are the most minuscule part of the creative process. The real muscle of the artwork stems from those with the craft and skill to develop those ideas, connect them to other ideas, and construct something tangible from the ether. Ideas are like the cement and the lumber and the steel to build a home. Yes, they are vital and essential. You can’t build the home without those raw materials. But simply acquiring raw materials isn’t the impressive feat. The impressive part is having the craftsmanship to assemble those materials into something livable; when you know how to put the parts together and actually engineer them into a physical construct. Otherwise, you’re just left with a pile of grandiose building materials.
Ideas are the same thing as raw building materials.
Those who understand and appreciate the architectural construction process would never ask, “How do you get those raw materials?”
Those who understand are more apt to say, “How do you draw up your blueprints?”
Every creative person approaches the blueprints differently. The blueprints are the trick. They are the key. It’s not the ideas. It’s not the raw materials. It’s the creativity behind how to put those materials together.
Where do you get your ideas?
It doesn’t matter.
How did you put these ideas together? The answer to that question is what truly provides insight into creativity.