Monday, October 15, 2012

Many Are Called, But....

        "Where do you get your ideas?" 
         How many times have we author-types been asked that question?  Lots! 
         Except for those glum days during which there occurs no sensible, intriguing notion whatsoever, ideas seem to everywhere. 
         In headlines: A solitary fall guy breaks the sound barrier in the course of a 24-mile sky dive. Men, who are certain that they are doing the will of God, shoot a young girl for the crime of wanting an education. A gigantic space craft is s-l-o-w-l-y traveling the streets of Los Angeles. Who could fail to conjure compelling back stories, scientific elaborations, explanations, social studies, what-ifs, and boggling-but-true tales out of material like that?
         On the calendar, chockablock with factoid-stuffed dates, each one being an opportunity to retell or introduce what happened? And why?  We're not quite two years out from the 100th anniversary of the summer when a relative handful of bullheaded diplomats plunged Europe into wasteful, mega-tragic and deadly war.  2014 makes two hundred years since British troops went on a rampage, all carrying torches for the capital of that rebellious bunch, thought-they-were-so-smart.  
          In books and other places the written word is found, but specifically I mean those times when you're researching a topic and come across an incidental character or event. A paragraph about a half-forgotten explorer or a bit of everyday heroism or a small technological breakthrough and It's as if you're traveling and you say, "Let's turn here and see where that road goes!" 
          It could be an overheard bit of conversation or a chancing upon a roadside marker. It could be sheer admiration: being caught up in someone else's wonderful writing and finding yourself thinking I want to do a book like that.  And the thought's shadowy sidekick: I wonder if I could. Suddenly there's a spark. It's not for nothing that the word enthusiasm comes from the old Greek terms enthousiasein or entheos: God-possessed. A spirit has found entrance. And you  find yourself hitting the library, your fingers tapping from one site to another. Jotting down notes. Staring out the window.
          Still. Enthusiasm makes a swell servant, but a questionable master. 
         Too many Ideas and you can find yourself like a fly at a picnic, first lighting on the potato salad then lured by the scent of hot dogs. Buzzing over to the pickle relish. And there's the second-guessing: Does this idea have legs? Will it sell? Would anyone - anyone? – want this?  [Everyone seems to be fast with a fly-swatter these days.]  No, this idea's stupid - better try that one over there. 
           Ideas? They are rather like souls to the old prophet: "Many are called, but few are chosen." Matt. 22:14.  
            Where do you get your ideas? 
            No wonder the question's asked so often. It's a darned good one.
            Here's another: How do you know if an idea is any good?
          I reckon it's a question of faith, the substance of books unseen.


Cheryl Harness said...

“I pressed down the mental accelerator. The old lemon throbbed fiercely. I got an idea.”
the great P.G. Wodehouse, b. this day in 1881

Anonymous said...


Sometimes I wonder what I should be keeping record of now so that some author 50 years from now will be able to write about our time accurately.

Or what events now that seem so insignificant to us while living change the course of the universe.

...hmmm?! I wish I could see into the future.

Fortunate One said...

Such a thought-provoking and unique way of addressing the topic.
The Web makes it extremely easy to
take those detours. The journey is
often so illuminating that the destination seems insignificant.