I’m gonna be upfront with you: I rarely have trouble coming up with ideas. If you’re amazed, don’t be! Though you may have been taught to view it this way, the ability to churn out crazy, fun, creative ideas is not a gift granted to the select few. It’s a skill anyone can develop with just a little effort.
I’ve been developing my skill my whole life, often without realizing it. From the time I was five, I’ve been grabbing pieces of things out of the air and smashing them together in new ways. Now, as a busy young woman with two jobs and a husband, I’m drowning in more ideas than I have time for.
How did I turn myself into a bustling idea factory? And where do I get my raw materials? Well, pull up a chair, because I’d be happy to tell you.
Okay. Here’s my secret: to churn out ideas by the kilo, I let myself passionately and shamelessly love what I love – and steal from it. What do I mean by that? Let me show you by walking you through those loves.
1. Favorite Media
As a kid, I wrote story after story set in the worlds of my favorite games. I didn’t know until I was a teenager that those stories had a name: fanfiction. Fanfiction is frequently put down as amateurish, stupid, and a waste of time. Well, I’m here to tell you that, even if some fanfiction is amateurish and stupid, creating it is never a waste of time. In fact, it holds the key to creating powerful, original content of your own.
Think about it. If you love a book, movie, or game so passionately that you’re willing to write fanfiction for it, that’s a sign that something in the story really speaks to you. Maybe it’s the setting, a character, or the type of plot. Whatever it is, don’t ignore it. Steal it!
Me? I love creepy sci-fi stories. Stories with atmosphere, creatures, and thrills. (Ex: movies like Alien, The Thing, Pitch Black; books like Annihilation, Starfish, The Time Machine; games like Bioshock, SOMA, Dead Space; TV shows like The Expanse, The X-Files.) Does that surprise you? Well, if you’re at all familiar with my project The Oracle Fragment, it shouldn’t. I’ve ripped the elements “atmosphere, creatures, and thrills” out of my favorite stories and stuffed them shamelessly into my own.
I also love deep, thoughtful stories that reflect on our relationship with each other and the universe. (Ex: movies like Interstellar; books like Silently and Very Fast, Star Maker; games like Mass Effect; TV shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, The OA.) It may not be obvious from The Oracle Fragment’s web page, but I intend to stuff it with deep thoughts too. I’d be bored with it if I didn’t.
And that’s the key: I’d be bored with it if I didn’t. Only something that excites me can form the foundation for truly powerful work. If it doesn’t excite me, I won’t give it the energy it needs to meet its full potential. The media I’ve consumed all these years – the stuff I think is exciting – tells me exactly what materials I should use to build that foundation.
Yes, I said Pinterest. It’s not just good for collecting recipes and craft ideas. It can be the spark you need for a new project. It can even be a window into your artistic soul.
I speak from experience. Before I joined Pinterest in college, there was so much I didn’t know about myself. I didn’t know, for instance, that I absolutely love sci-fi/fantasy concept art. Nor did I know I have a weakness for fantasy fashion. Now I can tell you my favorite artists for each: for concept art, Arthur Haas and Sparth; for fantasy fashion, Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab, and Agnieszka Osipa.
Discovering these loves changed the course of my artistic life. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I thought I hated art until I discovered sci-fi/fantasy art on Pinterest. Browsing works by industry pros breathed new life into a passion I believed was dead. Meanwhile, my discovery of fantasy fashion broadened the scope of that passion, infusing me with the need to paint incredible costumes.
Pinterest continues to be a source of never-ending inspiration. I browse the site frequently, saving photos of everything from gorgeous aquariums to abandoned buildings. Some people might think it’s a waste of time, but I disagree. Every photo I find is the potential seed for a new idea. When I’m running low on inspiration, I look through my collections and find something that engages my imagination. It never fails.
To see what speaks to me on Pinterest, you can explore my collections here.
This one might be an obvious source of inspiration to some of you. It feels obvious to me, but you’d be surprised how infrequently I take advantage of it. When I turn to music for ideas, I have to slow down, listen, and let myself get sucked into another world. To get really good results, I have to listen to the same song over and over again. Doing this can be tough when my brain’s in “go-go-go” mode.
When I do stop and listen, though? Aw man. The inspiration I get can be spectacular. It can even happen when I’m not expecting it. Just the other day, I listened to the song “Hidden” by Skrux late at night when I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t thinking about art, I just wanted to escape the boredom of insomnia. Suddenly it went further than escape. The lyrics, poetic and Tolkienesque, started creating images in my mind’s eye.
Deep in the forest he lays asleep,
His slumber can be heard miles away…
I ended up lying there for an hour, my imagination crackling like fireworks as an illustration came together in my head. At the time of this post, it’s still a work in progress, but it has so much promise.
You may be wondering what type of music I listen to for my inspiration (or you may not be). In a nutshell, I love atmospheric, spacey, chilled-out stuff. Also, if I really like a particular video game or movie, chances are I’m crazy about the soundtrack too. Soundtracks are fantastic for imagining an emotive art piece.
Favorite artists include:
Favorite songs include:
These aren’t my only sources of ideas though. Not by a long shot. In fact, we haven’t even gotten to the deep, scary stuff yet! Tune in next time for Part Three, where I discuss my most profound, embarrassing, and personal sources of inspiration. \\//