Outside My Window
Nearly everyone you meet who learns you're a writer, and even some who are very close and should know better, says to you, 'Where do you get your ideas?' or even worse, 'I have a great story idea you can use.' I always cut them off as gently as possible, with the comment, 'Coming up with ideas is not the problem, finding the time to work on them is.'
I think the reason many of us take up the writing profession is a need to express the ideas that fill our heads. I can't remember ever being without characters running around and acting out scenes in my mind. I remember once, my mother said to me, 'Peg, sometimes when you're doing something you move your lips as if you're talking to someone.' I was ironing at the time, yes, during my youth, we still did that. Ironing was an onerous, boring job in my book and what better way to entertain myself than to talk to characters doing far more interesting things.
So ideas are not a problem. I have only to look out my window. I have two in my writing room. From one lace curtained window I can see our neighbor's roof line with a gable and the branches from a giant oak tree framing it perfectly. A mosaic of shadow and sunlight add further interest. Something to paint, I think to myself, then go further and wonder, if my current neighbors, who've been there through two generations, weren't there, what secrets would hide behind that window so perfectly centered beneath the gable. Characters clamor to be heard. They have a wonderful story to tell. Perhaps a young girl locked away, in the vein of V.C. Andrews. Or a spy who's hiding out while he tries to figure a way to steal important military secrets. The Federal Center in Battle Creek must hide plenty of secrets. Or maybe an old woman with a dangerous secret her handsome nephew is trying to wring out of her. Or perhaps ....
See what I mean? I won't even start on the other window which looks out over a red maple tree and a lily and hosta bed below, which a lonely middle aged woman tends diligently while a man watches her and ... See what I mean? The fun part isn't getting an idea, although it does have a certain aha joy, but the enlarging on that idea, the turning it this way and that while we look for holes that will trip us up later. This is the time when an idea turns into a plot and characters become flesh and blood. These are the exciting, challenging moments of writing. I wouldn't give up this time for anything. Dogged by guilt because you should go spend some time with family, you continue to sit before your computer, fingers racing over the keys. Occasionally you look outside your window, just to grab a quick reality check, then you bend your body around the key board protectively and continue. Outside my window is a tranquil scene that calms and soothes, but that isn't enough to stay me from my course. I have a great idea and I have to run with it. That's another thing that keeps me writing.