People ask me all the time, "Fred, you'ze is such a frickin' genius writer--where d'yeh get all your idears?"
And I say, "Thanks, but I don't live in the city anymore and I no longer speak your native tongue."
Actually, I say that the best ideas just show up on their own, unexpected, like termites. In many cases actual geniuses were inspired to write famous books because one thing came to them, a line or image. C. S. Lewis one day had an image of a faun under a lamppost, and all the Narnia books sprang from that first idea. His friend J. R. R. Tolkien was just working one day when he wrote, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
Of course, Lewis and Tolkien brought lifetimes of thought and information to all that followed. In my case, I just slap it down and pray.
But really, inspiration can come from anywhere and seems to come from nowhere--the word means "to breathe in." You never know where it will strike.
Here's an example: The other day I was wrestling with some cords and other computer detritus, when I found an old mouse I could not place. I asked Mrs. Key, who said, "I think that's the mouse that came from the Dell." And poof! Inspiration for a nursery rhyme.
The Mouse that Came Down from the Dell
by Frederick Key
The mouse that came down from the dell
Went along to the manor house farm
A chicken he met by the well
Gave mousey some cause for alarm.
“There’s a cat in the caretaker’s shed
Patrols every inch of this barrow.
If she sees one gray hair on your head,
Then surely your spleen she will harrow.”
“I’ve come much too far to turn 'round,
Over forest and meadow and fen,
And I can dash without making a sound,”
Said the mouse to this notable hen.
“What on earth brought you so far from home?”
Asked the chicken with quizzical eye.
“The sight of our dumb rooster’s comb?
Or a crumb of the cook’s lousy pie?”
“It’s love that give flight to my feet,
And impels my poor heart to set sail.
The mouse Genevieve is so sweet,
And I am here chasing her tail.”
“If you must,” said the hen as she sighed,
“Off you go, then, to find and apprise her.
Long before Genevieve is your bride,
You shall be a small cat appetizer.”
Shot the mouse to the house, like a gust,
Where he knew Genevieve, with her mobs,
Hung around seeking pizza pie crusts,
Like a big bunch of freeloading slobs.
But halfway along came the cat,
Full of fury and razor and spit,
The mouse took a look and with that,
Took a quick powder, lickety-split.
The mouse traveled back to his dell,
Sweating hard from his quixotic stunts.
Upon his sad romance he’d dwell
For his whole life (of seventeen monts).
Moral: A girl is only a girl, but a rapacious predator makes you sit up and take notice.
See? Genius, or what? Huh?
Sorry; I can't understand your native tongue either.