Very often, what should be the easiest aspect of this writing thing is the most difficult. The moment you tell someone that you write novels they will ask you where you get your ideas. This will 100% happen every single time, and you will have to resign yourself to people demanding to know where you get your ideas as if they suspect there’s an Idea Store somewhere making drone deliveries.

The assumption is that ideas are plentiful and easy. The reality is, we’ve all sat in front of a blinking cursor or blank page and had zero ideas. Zero. It drives some of us to drink. Because the reality is ideas are cheap, and ideas are everywhere, but you have to combine your idea with that mystical energy (for once I’m not referring to whiskey, although it helps) that gets the creative energies focused on that idea. Without that thrilling sense of excitement, even perfectly good story ideas will sit there, inert and mocking.

The good news is, coming up with ideas to write about is easy enough. One of the easiest ways is plenty effective: Just answer a question.

Forty Two

There are two ways to go about this.

The first is to ask a question and then provide the answer. It’s important to note that we’re not looking for actual answers—in other words it’s okay to ask a question that has an answer but to ignore that answer in favor of something more fanciful, impossible, or insane. For example, maybe you wonder why UPS trucks are brown. There’s a real-world answer to that question, but fuck it: Maybe they’re brown because the wormhole technology they use to shift freight around the world reacts badly with other colors.

The second way to approach this is to come up with an answer and then wonder what the question is. If the answer is putting birthday cake into the dryer, figuring out the problem that solves is gonna be fun. It might not lead you to a coherent story, but it’ll get the juices flowing and for the moment that’s all we care about.

Don’t get chained to reality and the actual answers that exist. Plenty of stories have ignored easily observable reality in favor of crazy bullshit. The crazy bullshit is always more entertaining. I should know; at this point the local cops arrest me for public intoxication mainly for the stories I tell to explain my nudity.

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