It’s a very difficult question to answer. We don’t really know where ideas come from, but we wish we could have more of them, and better. We know they appear inside our heads but beyond that we can’t be more precise. Some people believe that ideas and inspiration derive from outside of ourselves, some believe they are delivered to us by someone or something else, but from where? If we knew that we would go there and find that elusive spring for ourselves.
A long time ago I was introduced to the idea of the writing muscle. In the same way that an athlete needs to exercise regularly to stay fit, as writers we need to keep writing, to keep thinking about writing, and to keep reading. To create the best work we can, we need to make sure that writing muscle is always ready and warmed up. Usain Bolt attributes his phenomenal speed to natural ability but also to working hard. He doesn’t drive up to each athletics meeting, get out of the car and start running (although if he did he would probably still win). He trains, works on his fitness, warms up, and makes sure he is ready to run.
Maybe those who have the best ideas, or those who have average ideas but manage to achieve huge success with them, are just lucky. Many football fans grumble that the bigger teams like Manchester United seem to get refereeing decisions going their way, score last minute goals, manage to sign players that suddenly become better than they were with their previous clubs. In short, the big teams get all the luck. But as Alex Ferguson, Man U’s retired manager once said, “the harder we work, the luckier we get.”
Writers need to be fit, we need to be ready to write. Whether we are short-story writers like sprinter Usain Bolt, novelists like long-distance runner Mo Farah, or whether we cover many literary disciplines like heptathlete Jessica Ennis, it takes hard work and dedication. I don’t know where ideas come from but when I work hard at writing, then I seem to get luckier and that’s when the ideas come.