I went to a concert last night for a band that’s relatively new to me, but has been around for a long time. During the show the lead singer mentioned they’d been touring for 18 years. They’ve existed longer than that and have released over 15 albums. I remember thinking “That’s a lot of songs, it must be hard to keep coming up with new ideas after all this time.”

This, of course, got me thinking about my own well of ideas. How deep does it go and how long might it last me? Do I really have enough ideas for a lifetime or a career?

For the long period of time in which I didn’t write, I didn’t have a lot of story ideas. My novel was always whispering in the back of my mind, of course, and a few random ideas popped up here and there over the years.  But, in general, I didn’t have much inspiration, which was one of the things I used as evidence to myself that I clearly wasn’t meant to be a writer.

I’ve previously written about classes I took with Renée Hartlieb early in my current writing journey. One of the things she talked about was making sure the universe knows you’re open to receiving ideas. At her suggestion, I started carrying around a notebook with me so I could always jot down anything that fluttered into my mind.

To my surprise, this worked incredibly well. Suddenly ideas were popping into my head at all hours of the day, no matter what I was doing. It felt like I’d put out an “Open for business” sign and all these ideas that had been floating around aimlessly now had a place to be. Sometimes it’s a full-blown story, sometimes it’s just a phrase or scene that I don’t know the rest of yet. It all goes down in the notebook for me to look at later when I’m figuring out what to work on.

I’ve been noticing that since I started editing my novel, the ideas have dried up. Even ideas that I have, but haven’t written yet, aren’t demanding my attention like new stories usually do. It’s part of why this question of the depth of the well of ideas was concerning. This is the first time since I started writing again that there aren’t more ideas than I have time for.

What I’m hoping is that it’s just a matter of timing and openness. When I first got that notebook for new ideas, I needed them badly. I was starting from scratch, needing to build up a little supply of short stories to start submitting. I have that now, so what I really need is to get this book in order.

Maybe the current dearth of ideas is just that some part of my brain recognizes that the novel is what I need to focus on. Perhaps that “Open for business” sign has been replaced with one that reads “Temporarily closed for renovations”.  I like to think that once the renos are done and the novel is ready to go out into the world, I can flip the sign back and make space for all those ideas floating around without a place to be.

Is there a lifetime’s worth of ideas waiting for me? I guess that’s something I won’t be able to answer definitively for a (hopefully) long time. While the ideas aren’t flowing as freely as they were before, when I’ve had need in the last few months to come up with something new, the well has provided. I’m trying to trust that it will do so again.

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