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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Where do ideas come from?

Sometimes I have to wonder where I get the idea for anything that I’m about to write. I sometimes hear about people who have writer’s block, and have trouble relating to that. In a way. Even on mornings when I get up and have no preconceived notion of what I might write when I sit down, ideas seem to descend on me in a flood.

In fact, that might be a better analogy. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, I suffer from writer’s logjam. There are so many ideas rushing from brain to keyboard that I can’t get them sorted out to settle on just one. For example, when I sat down this morning, I thought I was going to write about fountain pens. But I got to thinking about a poem I once wrote about ink. And that got me thinking about where I pull ideas from.

I’ll talk about fountain pens tomorrow. Or the next day.

I believe that ideas are floating in the universe like cosmic rays and they hit your brain when you happen to cross their paths. Like the particles or waves of a nova in outer space, they don’t usually come as a single direct shot from the cosmos to one head. Usually they are more like a shotgun blast that might hit any number of people within a given radius (of about 3,000 miles).

That’s why you can’t copyright an idea. There’s no such thing as an idea that occurs to only one person. Those cute little tags that you can buy that have a jewel or clever saying on them that you attach to the stem of a wine glass at a party? My wife thought of that, years ago. We’ve been using them at our parties for at least 15 years and when we first introduced them, people said “What a great idea! You should patent this and sell them.” We didn’t. Now you can buy them everywhere. And not one of those places would trace the idea back to the brainstorm my wife had.

The difference is not in what the idea is, though it might manifest itself in different ways. The difference is in what we do with the idea. Someone who had that idea decided to manufacture them and sell them. We didn’t.

I’m seldom worried about sharing my ideas with other people. I figure that if I’ve got the idea, someone else does, too. I’ve got an idea for a story that… Someone else has an idea for that story, too. It all comes down to who will write the better story, the better marketed story, the more skillfully crafted story. And sometimes nobody wins. Two stories that use the exact same contrivance come out at the same time and are equally successful (or flops). That’s why every television show that comes out in a given season sounds the same.

Well, I have to stop now. I’ve got an idea….