Thursday, September 6, 2012

Playing Well With Peoria

I don’t think there’s a writer who hasn’t been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” It can a troubling question—seems it’d be easy to answer, yet it can be frustratingly not so. Stephen King has a ready reply at his disposal: “I buy them from two spinster sisters who live in Peoria.”
In asking where one gets their ideas, it can be inferred the questioner is expecting a singular answer; and perhaps there are writers for whom such is the case. But most of us, I think, struggle with finding inspiration: It can seem such a shy, pensive, volatile and elusive critter, we don’t know, ourself, from whence it comes. Telling somebody that we buy them, somewhere, gives a sought-for elegant answer, while making us seem witty. Additionally, this answer’s humor can serve to point out the ridiculous nature of the question. (“Well now, inquisitive one, tell me, where do any ideas you have come from, hmm?”)
It’s a writing cliché that, “ideas are everywhere, all around us,” and the word we typically use for the getting of our ideas, “inspiration,” has its origins in Latin, indicating an in-take of breath. So is it much of a stretch to say we breath in our ideas, our inspirations, that they’re a literal part of us? (This also takes care of the notion that, “inspiration must come from within.”)
If only it were that simple. How many of us have come to the writing and found nothing? We’re constantly breathing in, ergo, supposedly constantly receiving inspiration; however… (And don’t tell us to, “be open,” because we are; we’ll take anything, right now.) Sometimes, this dryness or emptiness comes after a particularly fecund period of writing, and we wonder what’s suddenly happened. At other times, it’s part of a long dry spell, and we wonder when it’s going to end. Perhaps it’s because there seems to be no explanation for the fecund and the fallow periods, and because ideas seem to come to us, rather than from us, that the notion of muses is still with us.
Maybe King is also being hopeful in saying he gets his ideas from those two sisters. When all else fails, see what’s playing in Peoria.

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