Chasing the Elusive “Idea”

So in my quest to be a more-published author, I routinely wander off and look for places accepting submissions. I’m not fantastic at short stories, but I’ve gotten a bit better and it’s easier to find places accepting those than trying to find somewhere your little niche book will fit in. But here is the trouble I’ve run into. Generally when I write, I’m writing whatever happens to inspire me at the moment. Elves, rockstars, British dudes…whatever the case may be, I just write about that.

So how, even when you find an interesting prompt to submit to, do you come up with an idea?

I’ve seen more than a few submission windows fly by because while I was fascinated by the topic, I couldn’t come up with an idea. For example, I’ve seen stories talking about the apocalypse, and the aftermath thereof. I’d love to write something about that! Think of all the cool things I could do? …Can I think of a story? No. Even the personal essay ideas, looking at something like Chicken Soup for the Soul entries, I can sit here and say “oh hey, I’ve been/done/felt that; I could write about that,” but when it comes down to it, I stare at the blank document and whine.

The words don’t come. They say you can’t wait on inspiration to be a writer, and I’ll agree. But what happens when you can’t even find the first drop to start?

I wandered onto Twitter and asked my fellow writer friends, and most of us had the same problem. Either you got sparked with an idea, or you sat and pondered until the opportunity had gone by. Which it, of course, frustrating. I don’t want to just sit here; I want to write and come up with interesting things for me to send to people, maybe for them to publish! And yet I sit, with my three short stories taunting me from the shelf, waiting for a friend to join them and not getting what they want. (To be fair, only one of them is up there. I don’t own copies of the other two, though I SHOULD of one, but the publisher never bothered to actually send it to me, despite numerous emails. ANYWAY.)

I’m not planning on giving up on this, far from. I’m going to keep looking at calls until I finally come up with something. That’s how I got all the others I have; it’s just a matter of waiting until one finally bites me in the ass and gets me moving. Maybe with time, I’ll be able to come up with more, maybe not. Who knows? It’s all part of being an author, I guess. If there’s a trick to it, I certainly don’t know what it is.

Do you know? What are your methods for finding inspiration to write for submission calls? Do you have a trick for making the words and characters come? Share with the class! I’d love to hear.

Until then, I think I’ll just keep poking at my Duotrope email and pouting at it. It seems to work for me. …some days.


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