I’ve read a lot of analogies about ideas and where they come from. My ideas tend to come from catastrophic thinking. It goes a bit like this: I hope that pelican doesn’t try to make off with my toddler. Do pelicans attack toddlers? What if they did? Would that fisherman down there on the embankment hurtle down, fishing knife in hand, and save my baby? What if? It isn’t an altogether healthy part of the vocation, and I often wonder if all writers fall prey to catastrophic thinking. When I was younger, these intrusive thoughts frightened me and made my heart race. Now, I’m more accustomed to living inside this head and I try to think of my runaway imagination as a story machine.
A turn of phrase will just come to me. They fall upon me, as if from above. They are inspiration, they don’t feel wholly mine; they feel gifted. I am usually presented with a lovely string of words while I’m vacuuming or washing the dishes and it’s my task to find my iPhone or a pen to note down the elusive phrase. I wonder if other writers worry that their expression is derivative. When you have read as widely as I have, you tend to worry that the words are not gifted but stolen! Imagine if that beautiful line you wrote yesterday was actually midway down the fiftieth page of a twenty year old Kundera book. Imagine. See…there goes that story machine again! But seriously, don’t you just hope and pray that you’re the only one who has ever looked at ghost gums and thought them milky? You hope that your unique perspective can make poetry; that your language is not just an amalgamation of all you have read before.