Best Answers To Where Writers Get Their Ideas

in writing •  6 months ago 


If there's one question that writers (or entertainers in general) have gotten tired of hearing, it's "Where do you get your ideas?" or "where you get your inspiration?"

Many writers have tried to answer that question, with varying responses.

Psychologists have weighed in on this topic as well.

Sometimes though, the funny answers are best. It's surprising the things that writers, fictional characters (or fictional versions of writers) will say when asked this question.

Here's a look at some of the best answers people have given.

1 "A Voice in My Head Speaking German"

This comes from a scene from the sitcom "Seinfeld."

In this scene, the main character, a standup comedian named Jerry, is talking to someone at a party.

The person asks Jerry what he does for a living, and then asks where he gets his material.

Jerry sarcastically says that he hears a voice in his head tells him jokes in German, which he then has translated and uses in his act.

2 Schenectady

Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison had a reputation for being a bit cantankerous.

He particularly hated this question, so he developed a snarky answer: Schenectady.

People would then look confused and he would explain, "There's a swell Idea Service in Schenectady; and every week I send 'em twenty-five bucks; and every week they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas."

3 Wearing Baby Clothes

This comes from a scene on "The Dean Martin Show" where special guest Jonathon Winters is playing a toy salesman.

Being a great improviser (he mentored Robin Williams), Winters comes up with some hilarious jokes.

At one point Dean Martin's character asks him where he gets his inspiration to create the toys he sells.

Winters responds that he comes up with ideas by wearing baby clothes and talking to his wife in baby talk.

If that answer doesn't shut people up, I don't think anything will.

4 The Idea of the Month Club

This is really a stock answer to the question that many writers seem to use.

5 There's A Greek Muse Being Held Captive in the Attic

Another fictional answer, this comes from "Calliope," a comic book story by Neil Gaiman.

Various authors have apparently used the basic idea since then.

In this story, part of Gaiman's "Sandman" series, an author has no ideas and is under contract to write a sequel to his first novel.

Desperate, he strikes a deal with an older author who captured one of the Nine Muses years ago.

The younger author keeps the Muse captive in his house, treating her horribly even as he gets great ideas.

Then the Muse's ex-husband, a dark godlike being who rules people's dreams, finds the author.

Needless to say, he's not happy.

6 The Writers Inspiration Bureau

This answer comes from a story titled "A Shady Plot" by Elsie Brown, collected in the 1921 anthology "Humorous Ghost Stories."

In this story (which is apparently quite popular among English teachers), a writer gets contacted by a ghost named Helen who works for the Writers Inspiration Bureau.

Evidently, the Writers Inspiration Bureau consists of ghosts giving writers ideas for stories.

A fascinating concept.

7 Uber Gletch

This one comes from Theodore Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss).

Apparently, the good doctor could be a bit sarcastic when he was irritated.

When people asked him where he got his ideas, he reportedly would say the following:

"I get my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and 2000 feet above Gletch there is a smaller Hamlet called Uber Gletch. I go there on the 4th of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock repaired. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them."

8 "Every writer begins with..."

In the film "Finding Neverland," playwright J.M. Barrie befriends a single mother and her four sons, who inspire him to write the play "Peter Pan."

One of the boys, Peter, has some writing talent.

At one point in the film, Barrie hands Peter a blank notebook and says something along the lines of "every writer begins with a good notebook."

While filming though, actor Johnny Depp decided he wanted to have some fun.

One of the bloopers shows him deliberately misstating the line and giving a long list of things every writer starts with, including "some cotton wool" and "a long striped animal."

9 "Curiosity and the Rent"

Attributed to author Clare Sambrook, this answer is essentially a clever way of saying "I just do it. Otherwise, I don't eat."

Humorist Terry Pratchett reportedly said something similar describing why having a journalism background helps many writers: "you very quickly learn the direct link between writing and eating"

10 The Honest Answer

It seems right to end this list with an honest answer.

As author Neil Gaiman put it, the honest answer is simply "I make them up."

Do You Have A Favorite Answer to This Question? Share it in the Comment Section

This article is Copyright 2018 by Gabriel Connor Salter. Originally published by the Odyssey Online on September 10, 2018. Original URL:

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