The Whiskey Mattimoe Mysteries

humorous whodunnits by Nina Wright . . . starring a Michigan realtor and her felonious Afghan hound

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where I Get My Ideas

by Nina Wright

Since the premier of my very first play, I continue to be thrilled whenever readers or audience members care enough to ask where I find my ideas. It's a question I always answer honestly; however, the reply that I long to make is a variation on one I heard a bestselling writer give on late-night TV. When asked where he got his ideas, the celebrity novelist replied, "Dubuque." After the laugh, he went on to say that he’d never been to Dubuque, but he figured it was as good a place as any to shop for inspiration.

I’d like to say my ideas come from . . . Cincinnati.

And not just because it sounds funny. Newly divorced in my 20s, I had moved to Cinci to take what would be my first corporate job when I realized that I was never going to be happy wearing a suit every day. That shouldn’t have been a stunning revelation since I had already worked five years in professional theatre; however, the big Three-Oh wasn't far away. Time to get serious about earning a steady income. Alas, selling bulk orders of Crisco shortening for Procter and Gamble was not my career destiny, despite the tempting health and retirement benefits.

So it was in Cincinnati, during an existential crisis, that I faced my personal truth: no matter what the cost, I wanted to walk through life as a Writer.

I look back on my brief time in the Queen City as the start of a long and winding road paved with corporate failure and creative fodder. I wish I could say (on a late-night TV talk show promoting my first bestseller) that I found a blockbuster idea in a bowl of Skyline chili, but of course that didn't happen. No, the answers I stumbled on in Cincinnati led me to grad school, restaurant work, more grad school, more theatre work, assorted teaching jobs, lots of freelance writing gigs, a sideline biz renovating homes, lots of elder care, and a costly school-of-hard-knocks general education before I ever got my first novel published.

So . . . where do I get my ideas?

Honest answer: Finding ideas is the easy part—the easiest part—of the whole creative process. Inspiration is literally everywhere, especially if you listen more than you talk. People are always telling their stories, asking their questions, whining their complaints. All you have to do is pay attention. You don’t even have to wait around long enough to hear the ending. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Walk away while they’re still talking and go write the rest of the story. It’s yours now. Let the magic begin.


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