The Magic Recipe for Ideas

The question I’m asked most often as a writer is “Where do you get your ideas?” I wish I could spout out the magic recipe. But the truth is most of my ideas come to me when I’m doing nothing. By nothing I mean when I’m not thinking or actively seeking inspiration. I might be in the garden, cleaning the kitchen, driving to an appointment, or laying on the beach. The idea for Max’s words, for instance, came to me while I was taking a bath.

When I first started writing it was like being on a treadmill, chasing ideas, rummaging through the corners of my brain for that golden nugget. It took me a long time to learn that no amount of effort, diligence, or good intention would prompt an idea to happen or happen any more quickly. That’s when I started doing nothing. And lo and behold that’s when I began bearing witness to one of the most mysterious processes of creation: the birth of an idea. That wakening to awareness of the gradual unfolding of an idea eventually became the little voice that instructed and guided my writing.

Ideas have a momentum of their own and, like butterflies, alight where and when they wish. But my experience has been that it’s usually on a calm and ripple free surface. Often ideas have come to me like seeds that need time to come to full fruition. And they have demanded patience and faith on my part, and a surrendering to outcome. Like any birth, that of an idea has its own timeline that is not open to negotiation, and its own agenda. As I waited for my sons to be born I was able to sit in stillness, a quiet observer, confident they continued to grow within the womb. I often reflect on this as I nurture ideas for my books.

Over the years I have come to believe that ideas are first formed in a space of consciousness, either personal and collective, that is outside of the physical body, and that the mind or being is nothing but a vehicle for their unfolding. With age and maturity I have learned to willingly surrender myself as a vessel. In fact, I often feel I am nothing but a scribe putting to paper the hypnotic suggestions of the Universe. Perhaps I am deluding myself. But the gentle stance of receptivity is far more comfortable than the interminable treadmill.

Words like stillness, waiting, patience, and receptivity may seem anathema to an activity as dynamic as writing where the doer needs to be putting pen to paper in order to produce anything. But for me they are an essential part of the craft, that mysterious process as magical as creation itself, and as close as I’ll come to finding the Holy Grail or that magic recipe for ideas.