People ask: "How do you come up with ideas?" I usually murmur something vague, hoping to sound brilliant, thoughtful, and perhaps a little mysterious.
The real answer: I have no clue.
I'd love to claim some genetic gift of imagination, but every afternoon at five o'clock I'm shocked by the arrival of dinnertime and find myself completely starved for ideas. (On any given week we have pancakes at least once. Frozen pizza is a staple.)
You'd think the brainstorming process would extend to meals: 'Let's see...Macaroni could meet Cheese in the pot. They'd mingle for a while, the heat would rise...then Bam; They're inseparable!'
Nope. If my imagination is in charge, we're having pancakes again.
But maybe, as Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) suggests, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA&noredirect=1 creativity doesn't come from within. Maybe our stories select us, and our job is to sit down every day and do the hard work of writing what our Muse whispers--free of grammatical errors and jumping points of view.
This vision of creativity carries both a blessing and an obligation. The blessing is that it's no longer about my imagination, but listening with a willing heart. The obligation is that I'm duty-bound to perfect my skill. Beethoven gave us beautiful music, but the wonder is lost when it's played on a kazoo.
And I like Ms. Gilbert's vision because it helps me another way.
My muse doesn't do food.