Authors are often asked by kids and by adults—“Where do you get your ideas?” Most authors usually respond back with something like, “Where don’t I?” For me, that is and isn’t true. I will let you in on a little secret—I am obsessed with figuring myself out. So my ideas usually—not selfishly—but usually start from me. They come from a place of personal pain, personal joy, the desire to figure families out, how to cope in hard circumstances, from my belief in loving who we love, and standing as firm as we can in the truth that we have come to know. When I was a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, one of my advisors, the well-respected Marion Dane Bauer advised from the podium, “write from your unhealed places.” And, that’s what I do. Even when I write a picture book.
Well, maybe that is not totally true. I write from an unhealed part of me, or from a hope filled part of me. Like the Libra scales (that is my sign after all) I search for a precarious balance between hope and healing. For healing to work, one needs to face the pain. And for hope to abound, healing needs to occur.
In the Inspiration issue of Poets & Writers that kicked off 2011, Kevin Nance writes in “The Greatest Mystery…Where Writers’ Ideas Come From”:
“As useful as they are, the ideas that come to writers, in whatever way, almost always have their limitations. They almost never arrive fully formed, as id from the head of Zeus; they perform the necessary task of showing us the keyhole, but are usually not themselves the keys; they don’t get you through the door. ‘Anyone can get into a poem’ Robert Frost said, ‘but only a poet can get out of one.’”
So whether the ether of ideas comes from pleasure, pain, history, recent events— one thing is sure. An idea is where you start not where you end.