Random Idea Generator

So when I'm not pretty much glued to the computer screen following all the information (and disinformation) about the upcoming Scottish Referendum, I'm getting busy on doing all the things I usually do about this time of year when a book is finally out and another, as yet unpublished, is going through the submission process with my publishers: working out my taxes, cycling around Taipei (and there'll be a lengthy post coming up about that soon), and, most especially, coming up with ideas for new books.

It's true that the ideas for several of my books have come to me in what I guess you'd call moments of inspiration. One hit me the other day, and after two days I had maybe five, six thousand words of notes on the idea, all of them flowing fairly freely. Another one I've had for a couple of years, sitting on my hard drive, but I'm currently expanding that from a very bare-bones sketch to something rather more full-bodied.

I'm a big fan of what I guess you'd call free association - or at least, that's what I think it is. If I've got any kind of an idea I think is worth pursuing, I open up a new document and start typing pretty much everything that comes into my head. It's all out of order, and disconnected, with a very great number of random thoughts and ideas that go nowhere. But the advantage of the process of essentially typing as I think is that the process of putting the words down itself generates ideas. Once you have enough ideas down, the whole thing starts to achieve what I guess you might call a chain reaction. To be more precise, the mind starts to draw connections between those different random ideas, and a picture gradually emerges - of a situation, a dilemma, a society real or imagined, of characters and names.

So I don't know if that's useful or relevant or interesting to you, but it's one way to generate ideas, and it's the one that's worked just fine for me through ten books, including the one I just finished and that will appear next year. 

1 comment:

Orin Thomas said...

I find mind-mapping on a touchscreen tablet is a great way of quickly getting down ideas when free-associating. I use iThoughts HD on iOS. It's a very quick and effective way of capturing ideas in a non-linear manner.