Thoughts—Where Do They Come From?

Coming to the end of my revisions the other day I was hit by a sudden realization that I needed another chapter. I have no idea where the thought came from, but it seemed to have a mind of its own. Immediately, I knew what would happen and why the chapter was even necessary.  I’m not sure why it never dawned on me before now. Writers know enough not to question when these things come to us but to simply respond when they do.

Turns out this whole other chapter I wrote is now my favourite. It allowed me to inject something into the story that was definitely missing. It makes me happy.  :)  It fills in some of the spaces without over-filling them, if you know what I mean.

I am amazed by the way thoughts spring into our minds. One minute we’re thinking of one thing and the next minute this whole new idea pops into our heads.

Where do these thoughts come from? Do they erupt from out of thin air? From deep within our brains? Were the thoughts already there just waiting for the opportunity to jump out and say, Here I am? Do they hibernate? Peek out around the corner, waiting for us to take notice? Or do they gently prod us, from time to time, until we grab hold of the idea and run madly away claiming it as our own?

Since I have no answers to these questions perhaps some of you do or maybe you just want to share some terrific idea that came to you right out of the blue. It’s up to you! And maybe, just maybe the answer will come to me in a flash, like a lightening bolt.

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  1. Oh, Laura, what a great post! I love it when those “thoughts” seem to come out of nowhere. But their origins, I speculate, probably aren’t so mysterious. A lot comes from our subconscious constantly working out questions, ideas, situations while our conscious mind tends to the critical functions of everyday life.

    What many people, including myself, label “muse,” I feel is really just our subconscious sending us opinion, suggestion or feedback relevant to whatever it is we’re thinking about, working on, obsessing over, etc.

    For me, I love the “thoughts” that spring up totally off topic after I’ve wondered about something and then filed it for later examination. After that “lightening bolt” moment, I get to dig into something new, something unexpected, something my subconscious didn’t want me to forget. Surprises are so much fun, don’t you think?

    I’m happy yours lead to a chapter that enhanced the story!

    • Thanks, Leah. Well it’s comforting to know that my brain is always running something in the background.Must be what the hum is I hear!

      I think surprises are great fun. So often it is much, much better than we could imagine all on our own.

  2. I love it when that happens, Laura! I always think of it as my characters talking, but like Leah said above, it’s probably just our subconscious. That’s not as romantic as believing our characters come to life, though. ;)

    Recently, I had to do something I *never* do…outline the rest of my novel. I normally just write like mad and let the story unfold as it will, but in this case, I felt a real need to outline, just to make sure I got everything in. During the course of the outline, I got a real surprise when it turned out that my bad guy *isn’t* my bad guy after all (he’s bad, all right, but just a little bit – another guy is much worse!) I found this out at the 300 page mark.

    Little surprises like this are so exhilarating, and I believe it’s what keeps us writing. After all, if we already knew everything that was going to happen, it would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

    • I suppose since we apparently use only what, 10% 0f our brains, there’s probably something going on inside there. I think when our subconscious want to get our attention it does.

      Sounds as though you had a big surprise with your WIP. I’m considering using an bit of an outline on my next story. The main character has much to tell but I need to get the sequence of events down. She keeps hopping from one thing to another.

  3. It’s my fairy literary godmother talking to me.

    • Your fairy literary godmother sounds amazing. Do you suppose if I put a pen and paper under my pillow, a story will be waiting for me in the morning? That really would be a surprise.

  4. I’d like to say the chapter I wrote recently came out of the blue, but in truth it had nagged me for a long time. It addressed a problem that I knew was there all along, and previous attempts had fizzled or just made the problem worse. Then, when I wasn’t expecting it, the chapter nearly wrote itself.

    I do think our writer’s mind works out these things in the background. Then it only seems that comes to us out of nowhere.

    • You could be right, Linda. If so, some of my thoughts must be way, way in the background running so far in fact that I don’t even hear a whisper..

  5. LOL, great thoughts here! Reminds me of a video I saw on TED. Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and Geniuses. You should look it up if you have time. She talks about how we all have these little geniuses — strange, whimsical, troll fairies or something like that — residing in our artists’ spaces, and that they come out now and then to communicate art to us. We are merely messengers. Takes the pressure off of us as artists, see. One poet she’d spoken to once told her how her poems came to her like tornados barreling through … she had to run back to the house and catch it by its tail before it got away from her. That way, she could write it all down. If she didn’t get there in time, then it would get away from her. It’s a wonderful video. I might have some of this wrong here, but I think I’ve included what struck me the most.

    I believe that I am a messenger, and that my art is a gift for me to use wisely, and to communicate compassion and beauty.


    • At my book launch last October, I remember telling the people there (friends, family, community members) that I felt the book belonged to all of us and that I just happened to be the one who wrote it down.

      I too sometimes have that feeling of being a messenger. When the story is complete it feels as though it belongs, that it is real. Perhaps all artists are messengers. I do like that thought. Thanks for sharing it, Julianna.

  6. Someone once told me that thoughts are gifts we think are ours but actually come from our guides. I have no idea if that’s true or not. Although, sometimes I’m convinced an angel is whispering in my ear. Great post. You definitely got me thinking.

    • Yes, I believe I have heard that also, Joylene, that everything created is actually created on another plane.It is an interesting thought.

  7. Laura, I have asked the same questions; it amazes me the complete new worlds some readers create out of nowhere. I have often wondered about the way my mind works and where the ideas come from when it seems there is no imagination left. It is as if there is another ‘me’ in there working it all out, but the visible me does too good a job of hiding it all, perhaps even denying its existence. I have often considered that if I were to just sit and write whatever comes to mind then I may be totally amazed at what ‘I’ can do. And I think I am afraid to find out! I can have some pretty crazy ideas.
    Have you or any of your readers ever taken part in the NaNo writing? I have been thinking it might be a stimulating way to spark my creative ‘muse’.

    Anyway … perhaps dreaming while asleep is the same thing as writing while awake – the difference being our level of participation. Our mind is working on things all the time and we get to either observe or be the vessel of its creative thought.

    • I actually do sometimes sit and simply write what pops into my mind, Lynn just to see what comes out. I start by asking myself a question and then I write out the answer without stop[ping to think. Some pretty interesting things emerge. No point in being afraid, try looking at it with interest and curiosity, Curiosity is something every writer needs to have. .

      I’ve never taken part in NaNO, but if I remember correctly, Carol Garvin did last year.

  8. Love it when this happens. Isn’t it funny a last minute add on becomes the fav? Crazy-awesome.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Lynn. I’m so happy that the chapter came to me without my having to prod. I knew immediately what would happen and I simply wrote it.

  9. I too find it amazing how some things make themselves known at different times. Given, at times it’s about getting to know my characters over time, but I have wondered ‘how did I not see that?’. Wonderful about your chapter!

    • Thanks Jennifer. The new chapter was so darn perfect for the story but I expect that I needed this extra time for it to make itself known.


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