My story ideas have always popped (or crept) into my head more or less organically. Looking back, it’s difficult to even remember where most of those ideas originated. I can make informed guesses, though: news stories, conversations I’ve had, conversations overheard (eavesdropping, in other words), a photo, a piece of art, historical events, personal experience, a poem, a song, a crime, heroic action, thunder and lightning, rain on the roof, my imagination. I’ve counted on happenstance to give me at least the seed of an idea, and then it’s up to me to recognize it as worth considering, worth pursuing, worth spending two or three or more years working on, or worthless.
I’m seriously thinking about changing my ways, though, and over the next few months, at least, relying less on serendipity and more on taking an active approach to unearthing ideas. I won’t ignore the “volunteers,” of course, but I’m going to be more diligent about writing down those accidental seeds and sparks and germs before they fade from memory, and while I’m doing that I’m also going to be on a purposeful treasure hunt. I don’t know if it will work, if my search will yield anything valuable, but if you see me wandering around city streets or mountain meadows or libraries or museums looking like a poor man’s Indiana Jones and carrying a notebook and binoculars and a camera and a giant listening device disguised as an umbrella, don’t turn me in to the seat-of-the-pants police, and feel free to share.