Where Writers Get Their Ideas

It is the question that plagues us: “Where do you get your ideas?”

What a strange, stupid question. Isn’t it? The very query seems to suggest that we receive all our ideas from some external source. People ask you that question, you just want to reply, “Uh, I don’t know, my fucking brain? Where did you ‘get’ that dipshit question?” Then you want to kick them in the colon and shove them down an escalator. Well. Maybe that’s just me.

Still, most of the time, we’re polite, and we stammer through some made-up answer that still lends writing the veneer of magic others feel it deserves. You may find yourself at times stymied on how to approach this question and offer an answer that satisfies the interrogator, and so here, today, I intend to do you a service. I have listed a handful of answers to this question that you may borrow and utilize in your own daily life. Hell, use them in interviews. You have my permission. (Or, add your own in the comments!)

So, here goes. Where do writers get their ideas? Select your favorites. Trade them with friends.

Shady Men In Trenchcoats

“I got a guy. What? You don’t have a guy? You need a guy. An idea guy. Here, you can use my guy. He roams, this guy, roves all over the city, but you’ll find him. You call this number. Sounds like a Korean laundry service. Tell him what you’re looking for on the answering machine. Then you’ll get a call back, and he’ll tell you where to meet him. The pier. The warehouse. The gator farm. The dildo shop. I gotta warn you, though: this guy, the idea guy? He’s not cheap. I mean, you can get the shitty leads for just pennies. He’ll sell you Rio Rancho for a quarter. But if you want the premium leads? The real ideas? You want the Glengarry ideas? Well. Then it’s fuck or walk, am I right?”


“I get my ideas from –”

*showcasing hands orbit your belly button like you’re Vanna White profiling a shiny toaster*

“That’s right. I get them from my belly button. The omphalos, friend. You think they come from up here –” *taps temple* “– but it comes from down here.” *pops thumb into belly button, swirls it around* “All day long, man, it’s like, it’s like ideas just stick to you. They’re coming at you from all directions. Like pollen on the wind. And eventually, they work their way into your belly button and collect there. The flotsam and jetsam of good stories. Stick your finger in. Scoop out an idea. Here, I’ll do it now:”

*wriggles index finger in greasy belly button*

“Oh! Oh, look: SPACE PIRATE.”

*another dip into the ol’ belly hole*

“Here’s another: FALLS IN LOVE WITH.”


“ROBOT JESUS. See? See that? That’s an idea, my friend. Space Pirate falls in love with Robot Jesus. It’s like Romeo and Juliet all over again. I smell a bestseller. I also smell dryer lint.”

Down In The Dark

“I procure my ideas from the goblin-folk. They mine them down in the crusty underlayers of the hidden hollow earth, chipping them free from the rock walls with pick-axes made from the bones of forgotten writers. They’re a feisty lot, what with their dread widgets and malefic gew-gaws, but it’s worth the price.”


“I get them from the Macy’s perfume counter.”


“I kill people, bash their heads open with rocks, then eat their brains.”

Sweet N’ Sexy

“All my ideas are the products of an unholy union between myself and a willing unicorn sex partner. After three months the unicorn gives birth to my little squalling idea babies.”

Ciphers And Codes

“TIME Magazine. Pick an issue. Any issue. Turn to page 34. Rotate the page. Look at it in a mirror. Spray yourself in the eyes with a blast of refrigerator-chilled Windex. No! Don’t blink away the tears. Stare through the tears. Read the last paragraph on the page that you can see. Write it down. Then reverse all the letters. Take this code and run it through a ROT 13 cipher generator. The resultant response is the idea. Use it wisely. Oh, also, flush your eyes with cold water. If the burning persists, call a doctor.”

WTF? (Part Two)



“I steal that shit from other writers. I read their books and then I’m just like, ‘Yeah, awesome, a girl develops crazy psychic powers at a Prom, boom, done, thank you, Mister Stevie King, whatever, asshole.'”


“I get them from you when you’re sleeping.”

Ideas Lasting More Than Four Hours

“Seriously? You really want to know? Boner pills. That’s right. You swallow a fistful of dick pills, you start to see some really crazy shit behind your eyelids. Even better if you’re goofed up on Ambien to begin with. All writers do this. How do you think Mark Twain got the idea for Dracula? Ambien and dick pills. They teach you that when you get your MFA in Creative Writing. But I’m giving you this pro-tip for free because that’s the kind of stand-up dude that I am. By the way, got any boner pills? I’m Jonesing over here.”

This Is The Future

“I have a robot. I give him poker chips and infant blood. He gives me ideas.”

Not Very Nice

“I get them from your mom’s vagina! Boo-yay!”

Social Media Guru


Aw, How Quaint

“A jaunty fennec fox in a monocle and a hat made of an old sousaphone comes to my house every Tuesday. He brings me a bottle of milk, a cassingle of Prince’s Batdance, and one new idea written on a fortune cookie fortune. Then he leaves again on his mechanical pony.”

May The Force Be With You

“George Lucas and I have kinda of a partnership thing worked out. I inject bacon fat into his neck-meat, and he e-mails me all his leftover ideas. We signed a collaboration agreement. It’s all good.”

WTF? (Part Three)

“A head shop in Des Moines.”

Or, The Truth

“We don’t steal our ideas from the gods. We don’t receive them from magical transmissions. We don’t earn them as badges on Foursquare. We see things in the world — in our friends, in our loved ones, in the forests and oceans, in magazines and books, in ourselves — and our brains set to work on these things behind the scenes like a dog whittling away a cow femur with his ever-gnawing teeth. The whole damn universe is our frequency and our brain is the antenna. Our ideas aren’t externally-driven. The process is an internal one. No Muse. No idea factory. No lightning strike from above. The same place you get your ideas — whether it’s an idea to have lasagna for lunch or to masturbate to The Barefoot Contessa — is the same place we get ours. We get them from our own crazy minds, man. That’s it. It’s not that exciting, but that’s really it.”