Where DO You Get Your Ideas? 

BY SHEILA HUDSON

‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question a writer hears often. 
Sheila S Hudson

‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a question a writer hears often. 

No matter what genre your writing takes, the story whether fiction or nonfiction all begins with a kernel of an idea. Every author interview contains this question in some disguised form. It seems that it’s a common belief that writers eventually run out of ideas. These readers evidently don’t read Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, or Louise Penny.

But alas, new writers often do run out of ideas or get the dreaded writer’s block. I know I did.  When I first began writing in 1992, I feared that I would write one column or one essay and that would be it. No more stories. I imagined that one day I would go to my computer and sadly there would be nothing to write about. But if I have learned anything in those intervening years, it’s that the MORE you write the MORE you have to write about. As soon as I foresee the no idea prophecy about to come true, I turn another corner or life throws me into a “situation.” 

One example is when I got an earplug stuck as we landed in Hawaii and spent the first few hours of our anniversary trip at the Honolulu Airport clinic. When I relate this, I get screams of laughter and people invariably ask, “Did that really happen?” I get the same reaction for my menopause stories, the accounts of our haunted appliances that turn off at will, and tales of our neighbor’s dog, Einstein, crashing through our picture window.  

My “situations” began at a young age when my cousin, Linda, and I emancipated Horatio, the prize bull. 

We spent the better part of the evening chasing him in a cornfield on a moonlit night. Another time Uncle Roy dressed up like Santa and got stuck on the roof.  Yes, they are true. I couldn’t make up anything that bizarre if I tried. 

But wait!  I have more.  I was bitten by a baby black bear while on vacation, lost in the Washington, D.C. Capitol building, plus I was kissed by Henry Winkler at the Music Box Theater in New York.  Life just keeps handing me these treasures.   

However, not all of them are positive.  In 1982, Tim and I had our moving van stolen en route to the University of Georgia where he had accepted a position. That was a trial I eventually wrote about. And just like anyone else, our family has had its share of illness, divorce, betrayals, and trauma including an autistic grandson.  

If I am fortunate, some may find their way to a periodical or anthology while others lie in my journal. 

Before I became a writer, I didn’t know what to do with all these episodes. After a few retellings, there was nothing to do but retire them. Ah! But now that I am a bonified writer, I can record them for posterity. If I am fortunate, some may find their way to a periodical or anthology while others lie in my journal.  Perhaps one day they will be fodder for a grandson to write a novel, a screenplay, or just have a good laugh. Either way writing provides another “eye” with which to view the event. Another tip I picked up when I was first learning to write.   

Writing can be a therapy to work through the bad stuff life hands you or to celebrate the crazy bizarre situations you may discover along life’s highway.  Either way a writer’s life is the best life of all. I am my own therapist. My journals are private and only for me. I always have something or someone to write about and my life is never dull. I get to meet all kinds of interesting people who tell me all kinds of things they never meant to. Sometimes these get into a cozy mystery after I have given the character another name and changed the details of course.

Recently I spoke to a creative nonfiction class.  I related writing columns for Athens Banner Herald, Athens Magazine, and Athena. They asked about writing for free vs. getting paid. I related my relationships with agents, publishers, editors, and other necessary personnel related to the business of writing. I encouraged the audience to join a writing group for critique of their work and also for encouragement. Those rejections slips will come. James Patterson said that he still gets rejected.

Inevitably a hand went up at the back of the room and the question came: “Where do you get your ideas?” I simply told them the truth: “they just come to me.” 

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