I want to talk about creativity. It concerns one of the most asked questions of authors – where do you get your ideas from? I know it sounds like a cliché, but so many non-authors want to know how we can ‘come up with’ such devious, exciting and intricate plots for our novels.

And I think we all have a slightly different answer. “I get my best ideas when I’m in the shower / out walking / drunk on a Saturday night”; “some of my most well-received novels have been based on dreams / nightmares / the result of imbibing vast quantities of psychedelic drugs”; or the asinine “I don’t know, really – they just come to me when I’m sitting in my garden writing studio listening to the sounds of nature”.

Some of these may be true, but it’s not my version of truth.

One universal truth is that staring at a blank page doesn’t cut it. 

Take this blog post, for instance. I ‘experienced’ a piece of creativity, and thought that it would make a blog post. I made some notes. And there it sat, staring at me from out of the screen. “I’ll do it by Friday”. I lied. “Saturday is a good day to write blog posts”. I lied again. “What about Sunday?” The truth is that today, Sunday, I connected my laptop to the power, opened it up, and began writing. I was / am experiencing creativity.

That’s enough of this meta / 4th wall stuff now.

So, earlier this week, I had this experience of creativity. It was not in a moment of quiet contemplation or during a drug-fuelled wild rant, but when I was cleaning my teeth in the evening just before bed. Why? Who knows? 

I had to make some notes, which led to a brief synopsis of around 600 words. Not the best thing for the early hours of the morning. But this was essential, because it could then be subjected to the ‘hangover’ test. Not for me, the story idea. Was the idea just a fanciful piece of nonsense, or does it have what it takes to be moulded into a viable story?

How did that lightning flash of creativity come about? It was a conjunction of 3 ideas (as are most good things in life): 

  • 1. I have a long-running theme in my head around homelessness, and around the idea that a lot of us are just 3 paychecks from being on the street, and we can find ourselves in that dilemma through no fault of our own (which appears in my current work-in-progress, Body Under the Pier)
  • 2. I have an even longer-running theme I want to explore around redemption, and how ordinary people can find themselves in extraordinary circumstances (both good and bad). This was explored in my Jack Warwick thriller, Corruption
  • 3. I have a current, slightly obsessive, interest, supported by YouTube videos, around which I’ve been wanting to write a story. In this creative idea, it’s a take on the Wolf of Wall Street meets Boiler Room meets The Big Short. Finance. Big finance.

So that’s my latest bit of almost spontaneous creativity. The big take away from this is that it didn’t come from staring at a blank screen, nor did it come from running through my story ideas folder or a list of writing prompts. It came from much deeper, and it embodies topics and themes I’m passionate about.

Watch this space.

< coming up in the next few blog posts >
How long does a book take to write?
Should you engage in toxic debates?

If you’re interested in the Efficient Novelist program, there’s a Twitter account, but it’s fairly quiet at the moment. It might be worth a follow for future updates: @EfficientNovels

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Featured image: Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash


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