Cooking Up Ideas

Still in The Waiting Place.  j0309029But while I was hanging out there earlier this week, I worked on a list of potential projects.   This is hard for me - coming up with ideas.  Or at least ones big enough to write a whole book about.  When they come, it's usually in pieces spread over lots and lots of time. 

For example, one day I might start with:  Ducks are interesting.  I'd like to write about ducks.

My brain will put that aside and let it simmer until a different day - maybe the next day, maybe months later - I'll think:    What if there were a swan who wanted nothing more than to be a duck, like a reversal of The Ugly Duckling?

Next to come could be the voice:  All my life I've been beautiful.  All I want is to be invisible.  So I can find me.  Or it could be the layers of the story: the swans' priorities versus the ducks' who share the same pond.  And maybe the pond becomes polluted.  And maybe the swan is secretly in love with a duck.    

Ok, so that story sounds terrible, but it's the gist of how the pieces come, slowly coalescing until there's framework enough to start writing.  

Sometimes the pieces come in a different order.  One day this summer I was in the garden, picking strawberries when the local nuclear power plant siren went off.  I stood there listening to it thinking: what if it weren't a test?   And looking at the scene - the kind of day, who I was with, what I was doing, the sound of the alarm - I could hear the voice that would tell that story.

I jot the ideas or voices or layers down as they come, on whatever's handy, eventually transferring them to an "ideas" file on my computer.  Yesterday I sifted through, putting the pieces together into descriptions of each story and realized I've got seven ideas.  Seven!  This is big.  They're not all great - though none are as bad as my duck example - and they're not all fully formed, but they are definitely a starting point. 

I guess now that all my ducks are in a row, I've no choice but to stop letting them simmer and throw one in the pot.