When I tell people I’m a writer, I typically get a slew of questions. Aside from “are you published?” (yes) and “where can I buy your books” (here), I’d like to take a moment to answer some of the questions people seem to like to ask me, how I feel about those questions, and which ones you should never ask of any writer.

  1. Where do you get your ideas?
  2. How much money do you make?
  3. What’s your writing/book/short story about?
  4. What is your writing process like?
  5. I want to write a book about [x]. How do I do it?
  6. Do you ever get writer’s block?
  7. Why do you write horror? What’s wrong with you?
  8. Why don’t you write like Harry Potter novels or something? Those make lots of money.

These are the questions I plan to tackle in my next blog series. So let’s take a look at the number one question that people who don’t write ask me: where do you get your ideas?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I could set up a nice little nest egg for my retirement. The truth is, no one really knows where our ideas truly come from. For me, though, I have to say it’s an active imagination and the ability to ask “what if?” I look at something, and a story will form around it. I dream, and wake up the next day with something I want to write about. I read and get inspired. I watch a film and think of ways I could tell a story like it but from a different perspective.

This is a question that’s perfectly legit, yes, and I attempt to answer it as best I can, but it’s really such a tiring question. People ask this one in interviews constantly, and being fresh and lively in an answer can be trying.

A better question would be: How do you shape your ideas from its vague form into a full story? This question gives a writer something to work with—something that isn’t the usual opener. Whether you’re doing an interview with a writer, or just meeting someone who writes, it’s an improvement on the tired old question about where a writer gets their ideas.