When someone posted a question online the other day, I was surprised at the number of responses he received--some of them actually pretty good; others, not so much. The writer asked, "How do you come up with good ideas for a book?" Naturally, I, being the Kind of Book Concepts, had to respond.
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You have received a few good answers to this question already. I especially like Brenda's response because a.) I like the name, and I never got to date a girl named Brenda when I was growing up, and b.) she asked the penultimate question you need to ask yourself: "What if?"
In reality, you already answered your own question when you used the word, think. French philosopher Descartes once said: "I think, therefore I am."
Get it? Everything comes down to thinking. Including human existence. Writers (and everyone else, by the way) should think all the time, every second they're awake, every moment they're alive. Think about what they're preparing for lunch. Think about how they're going to pay all the bills this month. Think about what their neighbor meant when he greeted them this morning. Think about thinking about things. I think, therefore I am. It's a brilliant piece of introspection. Most of all, it's imperative for all artists everywhere. To think, to question, to postulate, to speculate, to find out. In short, to be.
Thinking is what sets the serious writer apart from the hack or dabbler. By thinking, we can see our place in the universe, explain how the universe works for us, and speculate as to how others who think differently than we might also act differently. That's where Brenda's "what if" comes in. I like to think in terms of "then what?" Both questions lead down different roads to the same destination.
Thinking, by the way, also sets great writers apart from merely good ones or even excellent ones. Writers who think—question, postulate (there's that word again … maybe you ought to look it up), formulate, devise, scheme, commit, resolve, and universalize.
If you don't think, you don't advance in life. If you don't think, you don't succeed in life. If a writer doesn't think, he doesn't write; he merely parrots.
Thinking entails much more than simply deciding that it's raining one day. It entails asking why, how much, where did it come from, when will it stop, what good will it do, and what harm.
So, was Descartes so far from the truth? I think, therefore I am? If we don't take the time to think (and believe me, many people don't!), we don't live. We're not alive. We don't exist and possibly never did.
Thinking separates human beings from the apes. At least, that was the traditional thought along the matter for centuries. Today, we know that's not quite true. And how do we know it? Because some people stopped to think. And question. And theorize.
Just as writers have to do in every single sentence they write, every single paragraph, every chapter, and every book. Thinking. That's where book ideas come from. And the entire book for that matter.
I think, therefore I am.
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.