Getting an idea is pretty much like God saying, “Do this,” “Write this,” “Present this,” etc. And if you think about it, such a theory is not excessively far from true. Ideas have various ways of presenting themselves in our brains, in such a way that is time consuming and difficult to thoroughly explain. Think of “the light bulb.”
Ideas tend to pop into my head in a single instant, then followed by a slow and sometimes extremely annoying unfolding process, in which my mind becomes so wrapped up in the idea that I tend to drive myself near to insanity. Sometimes an idea (for a story, novel, poem, whatever) will appear out of nowhere. These ideas are usually the strangest but at times the best kinds.
Ideas’ other forms of birth come from things such as experiences, media, and the like. I know when I experience something, even if it’s tough, it’s going to end up in my journal or in a short story. When I say media, I’m talking about things we watch or read, like movies, TV shows (if you actually watch television, which I don’t recommend), books (I highly recommend those!), and news.
I’m a big fan of fictionalizing my own experiences. I once took the worst part of my life, reshaped the story, and added fictional characters, names, and locations. Writing about your own personal experiences, even if the memories aren’t your most pleasant ones, can do a number of things for you. For one thing, it can help you to heal from the experience, if it left you scarred (as mine did, ever so slightly). For another thing, it can get your story out there in the open.
I know how hard it is to tell people about the tough things that occur in our lives. This is where fictionalizing non-fiction is your friend. (Not like fractions are your friends. They aren’t.) You can tell your story without anyone ever knowing it was originally your own experience. See how beneficial that is? I’m telling you, it could never hurt. I’m not saying you have to crank out a whole novel in thirty days about it. That would just be insanity. Just a short story or even a poem could satisfy readers’ hunger.
One piece of advice I always tell myself: don’t ever ignore an idea. If you get one, which you most likely will at some point, at least write it down. If you’re working on another project…don’t abandon that one to work on this one! That never solves anything. We writers have a one-idea-at-a-time policy here. (No polygamists, please.) If the idea is good enough, you won’t lose it by the time you’re done with your current piece. It will still be there, waiting on your doorstep. Careful, though. It may become angry with you for neglecting it for so long and refuse to leave you alone until you two have finished your necessary business together.