This is the most common question that any author is asked. Where do you get your ideas?
Mine are mainly a product of what I have absorbed as I go through my daily life (which is why the coronavirus lockdown has been particularly tricky. There’s a limit to how much you can absorb when your life is so very quiet.)
But after reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, another possibility presented itself. In that book she tells a fantastic story about how she began to write a novel. As she described the concept, I thought that it sounded very much like another book that I had read, not by Elizabeth Gilbert but by Ann Patchett.
Then came the amazing part of the story. Elizabeth Gilbert’s life got in the way and she stopped writing the book. And at the same time and unbeknownst to her, Ann Patchett started writing it. And I mean exactly same book, with all the same characters and details.
An eerie coincidence?
Elizabeth Gilbert thinks not. She believes that the universe transferred the idea from her, who was not able to use it, to Ann Patchett who was. This explains, she believes, why throughout history there are examples of people having the same ideas at the same time, not just authors but scientists, musicians, screenwriters, just about anyone who is creative.
I was sceptical. I have always been quite a rational thinker and whilst I am open to new ideas, I tend to want empirical proof before I dive in and take them on board. Whilst this was a lovely idea, there was no way of proving that it was true .
And then . . .
Last week I was reading in my copy of The Bookseller, about the new release from a very popular author. Her previous book had been a great success and so I read the details of the new one with interest. And I discovered that it is exactly the same as an idea that I had had. Not only had I had the same idea, but I had written it down, in detail, in my notebook so I knew that I wasn’t just dreaming it.
I did nothing with my idea. Even though I really liked it (and still do) I didn’t have the time when I came up with it to give it any proper thought, so I put it on the back burner to save for later. Obviously the other writer did not and so she got to keep it.
Our ideas are so close that I will not be able to write that story any more (unless hers sinks without trace, which seems unlikely.) That’s okay. I have lots of other ideas. But maybe Elizabeth Gilbert is onto something after all . . .