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Grand title, but I thought it might capture attention.

Actually this is just a random musing on how story ideas come about, and then how they grow into something more than just a ‘…wouldn’t it be great if’ scribble in my writing ideas file.

Yes. I have a writing ideas file. This is not something I hear many writers talk about openly. Do they hold all their ideas in their head? Do they scratch them into little A7 notebook with a pencil that they keep in their sweaty back pocket?(I don’t know why it needs to be sweaty, but I’m improvising here, okay…) Or, like me do they have a word file (currently at 7021 words – longer than most of my short stories and regularly backed up) containing all my various notions, from single line pontifications to large-scale novel plans complete with character sketches and so on (well, I have two of those, the rest are short story ideas in various forms of development). There are other idea files, but those are ones further along the line of progression, complete with actual writing, and they deserve a file all of their own.

Recently, I’ve been trying to develop a new short story idea to work on and, despite my lengthy   multitudes of ideas, taking that spark or seed or activating that hideous mushroom spore of creativity(in the case of my darker tales) can be remarkably difficult. I can sit and riff on the idea, coming up with some stuff, but I know, in my heart that it’s just not working – so it gets shelved and I try something else. And then, just when I’m giving up and ploughing back into already-written stories and tinkering with lines here and there, along comes a new idea, fully-formed and breathing, flapping its prodigious arms around and screaming ‘look at me!’ And it’s then easy to write, in fact, it writes itself to an extent. I can’t type fast enough to get all the ideas down, and when I finally think I’m done and fall into bed, a scene starts writing in my head and I have to get up again and scribble it down on whatever I have to hand – a notebook, the back of an envelope, a crumpled lottery ticket.

And now, I actually have two ideas on the go. One of each variety. The main work in progress is a short story from an idea I’ve had for years, inspired in part to be resurrected by an anthology I’d like to submit to. And at the same time, a whole new idea was born after watching the BBC programme about ‘what makes a genius’ and one character on there inspired me. As soon as I finish the current story, that one is waiting in the wings, snorting its fury at me for not being attended to straight away. But, unlike Steve Martin, I only have one brain.