Where Do The Ideas Come From?

This is the unanswerable question.

How do I know?

I will wager that you can remember where you came up with an idea, maybe even some of the elements which went into the brew, but exactly why you thought that particular idea will allude you.

That is until you come up with a very plausible answer when it is time to do the publicity rounds.

We do that all the time with our characters – backfill – we have had plenty of practice.

So here is my thread for the day:

  • A David Hockney quote about how Japanese artists would paint a walk that they had taken during the day. There were no shadows in the painting because the time line was the length of a day, which meant the shadow would have constantly been moving in the picture.
  • The name Kenneth Gilbert.
  • Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway which takes place over one day.
  • There are two Kenneth Gilberts – one of them maybe the shadow of the other one (for publicity purposes this is very Haruki Murakami, and I was trying to draw kanji earlier for a painting which must have had an impact on my imagining of the idea).

Think of one of your ideas – explain it – publicity round or exactly why you came up with it?

Day 399 – Writing Like . . .

One of the best ways for a writer not to write is to do research.

The best kind of research for a writer not to write is to research how other writers write.

Or don’t write.

Being able to counteract your wife’s accusatory statement of ‘I thought you said you were writing?’ As the reason why you weren’t doing all of those jobs in the garden, it is helpful to counter with ‘but this is how Stephen King writes!’

Okay, bad example – Stephen King would be writing!

‘Research’ on YouTube led me to Kate Cavanaugh.

In her Writing Vlog she has tried to spend a day writing like famous authors. She has done, amongst others, Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, and Nora Roberts.

Kate scours the internet and puts together as much information as she can about the daily routine of the particular author she has chosen, then attempts to work like them, recording her experiences as she goes.

Check out the videos.

Then when you’re done doing that, tell me who you would spend a day writing like?

Kate has done Haruki Murakami which would have been one of my choices. I would go for Lee Child – I could match him for coffee but the cigarettes would either kill me or give me a habit which would ultimately have the same outcome.

I think I will try writing like Ray Bradbury.

Haruki Murakami’s Three Qualities of a Writer.

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami lists his three essential qualities needed to be a writer.

  1. Talent
  2. Focus
  3. Endurance

The first, Talent, is the most elusive of the three. Murakami tells the story of being at a baseball match and upon one particular strike of bat against ball, he made the decision to write a novel. He entered the completed novel in a competition and won it. He continued to write and he became an internationally bestselling writer.

Murakami clearly had talent.

But what about you and me? How do we know if we have talent. I’m not a great fan of baseball and I’ve never entered a competition.

I think that talent is a mixture of desire and practice. Having worked with a number of rugby players who have an easy level of physicality and skill, but have never achieved their potential because they didn’t have the right amount of desire or the discipline of practice.

Are you talented? When you write, do the words begin to flow, and do the scenes and dialogue seem to fall into place? If so, you probably have a measure of talent.

Focus. Whether you sit or stand to write, do you actually write? Or do you check your email and social media, flip between your playlists, polish your keyboard, or panic because you aren’t wearing odd socks?

If you can turn up, write, and get on with the job, then you have focus.

Endurance. This trait is probably in there because Murakami is a runner. It is in the title of the book, after all. He has completed a number of marathons and endurance is obviously a key quality in achieving those finishes.

For a writer, Endurance is also necessary. You have to finish the novels. You have to send them out to your agent or a publisher – maybe more than one for both of those. There are many stories of now famous novelists repeatedly sending out their manuscript before it was eventually published.


Write some more.

Finish the book.

Send it off. Probably send it off again X-number of times. Write the next one. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Remember you are a writer. Being published and making money from it is the unexpected benefit of being a writer.

Perhaps being a talented writer is the understanding that you are a writer.

Like Murakami did in that moment when the Yakult Swallows batter, Dave Hilton, got a hit down the left field line at Jingu Stadium.

Five Friends Continued.

In my last post, Five Friends, I put a spin on the old saying that you are a reflection of your five closest friends.

I asked you to consider who your five closest writers were.

I thought it only fair to invite you into the circle of my five closest authors.

  1. Ray Bradbury – My first introduction to Mr. Bradbury was through a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, borrowed from my father’s bookcase. I must have read it over a hundred times before I was out of my teens. Then came the short story collections and Fahrenheit 451. I love the fact that he really does let his imagination take over and you are often presented with something which seems like the world you are familiar with but then he adds the twist.
  2. Lee Child – The first Lee Child book I read was Without Fail, which was bought for me by my youngest son from a school fair when he was only six or seven years old. It is still my favourite Jack Reacher book. Anyone who reads a Reacher story, immediately wants to be Reacher. It is because of Lee Child that I completed my first novel, after reading Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin. Martin basically peered over the shoulder of Lee Child whilst he was writing the novel Make Me and asked him lots of questions. Learning that it was okay to write not quite knowing where you would end up really helped me complete a story or even begin it to start with. Following normal writers’ advice and plotting in detail left with a sense that the story was completed and my brain had already moved onto the next idea before writing any sentences of the first idea.
  3. Haruki Murakami – I picked up Norwegian Wood, in its replica form of the Japanese original in the two-part red and green books. This was quickly followed by Sputnik Sweetheart, and South of the Border, West of the Sun. I have all of his books, including a signed first edition of Kafka on the Shore, which my wife bought for me. Murakami’s style of blending coming of age stories with a sense of the mysterious, is very much in the Ray Bradbury way of story telling. He also owned a jazz bar and likes coffee – why wouldn’t I include him?!
  4. Michael Connelly – I will confess that I had not read any of Connelly’s work until after I had seen the first season of Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. Now I am hooked on both the tv series and the novels of Harry Bosch. His new character of Renée Ballard in The Late Show is an instant hit as well. I love the way Connelly’s novels are so detailed in procedure and description of place; even though these are the two biggest weaknesses in my own writing. Bosch’s need to right wrongs, no matter what the cost, is very compelling.
  5. P.G. Wodehouse – My wife takes the credit for this one! Wodehouse is her favourite author, especially Jeeves and Wooster, and Lord Emsworth at Blandings Castle. I can’t tell you the number of hours in which these characters have rattled around my head via audiobooks. What has remained is the flow of the conversations between the characters and the simple but effective plotting. If you haven’t encountered Wodehouse then what are you waiting for?

So, there you go. My famous five. Along with a few simple reasons why.

I look forward to hearing about your five.

Your Own Norwegian Wood.

In his novel Norwegian Wood, the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami uses the Beatles song of the same name on the first page, to bring on the memories of his protagonist Toru Watanabe. He doesn’t mention any of the lyrics and he doesn’t even really refer to the tune.

This was the first of Murakami’s novel I read and I became a firm fan from that point onwards. If you have never read any of his books then I definitely recommend them. Perhaps begin with Norwegian Wood or Sputnik Sweetheart or Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Whilst back in school I used the Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden’s song Hallowed Be Thy Name as inspiration for a creative writing essay.

What’s your favourite song or piece of music?

Could you use it for inspiration for a short story or a novel? Does it give you a feeling or an emotion which you could capture for the tone of your story or novel?

I love the piece Elevation of Love by Esbjorn Svensson Trio.

I already have the idea of a novel and the piece fits the mood.

I might even borrow Murakami’s idea of using the title.