Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? by Colin Cotterill

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You probably think I’d be sick of that question after the sixtieth time of hearing it but I’m not. I look forward to it. I love it. it’s my favourite question. Even more favourite than, “Do you have any special clothes you wear when you’re writing?” and, “What’s the very first word you ever wrote?” (Mauve flannelette jimjams and  ‘mummi’ respectively in case you were curious). The reason I like it so much is that I can try out more and more outrageous answers every time.

I once told a gentleman in the audience that I go to second-hand bookshops and buy a dozen novels nobody’s ever heard of, take them home and steal all the good ideas. I thought he’d be disappointed but he merely took notes, nodded his head knowingly and smiled. If I remember rightly his name was Dave Brown, or Don or Dan. Something like that.

I’ve tried the, “I get disgracefully drunk and when I  wake up in the morning I find scribbled notes all over the house chock full of ideas. (In fact this version was a little too close to the truth so I only used it once.) But that answer naturally morphed into the channeling of Agatha Christi. I sit in a darkened room, a pen poised above a notepad and I go “Ohm” for an hour. Agatha steers my hand across the pages.

I have shorter responses for those events where they only give me three minutes of Q&A:

“I find them on the refrigerator door.”

“I get them from my dog who used to be Ernest Hemmingway.”

“I have them delivered.”

“I eat a lot of pickled onions.”

“Actually it’s just the one idea written in different sitting positions.”

I never fail to amuse myself with my answers to the WDYGYIF? question. And the good news is that people who ask it have no concept of sarcasm. “I asked him, Mother, and he said he gets them from his dog. Who’d have thought it?” The only answer I haven’t yet given is the true one. And, viewers, it’s your lucky night because here, in a rare moment of exclusivity, for your eyes only in this blob, I am going to divulge my source. As with all good sources it comes with a little spice and takes some shaking to get it out of the bottle. But here goes.

A few years ago I started to lose my mind. No, don’t laugh. It’s not funny. Hot on the tail of my mind went my memory. Finding myself with neither a mind nor a memory complicated every day chores like kissing whoever that was beside me in the bed every morning claiming to be my wife. Like confusing hair gel and toothpaste even though they contain subtle clues in their titles. Like writing to tell my fans how pleased I am that they enjoy my Harry Potter series.

But every cloud has a silver lining and little crystal chandeliers. As my memory shriveled to a juiceless grape my imagination became a huge pregnant watermelon of the bizarre. There are a number of precedents on record of people losing one sense (as opposed to me who lost all of them) and being compensated by mother nature in another area. Stevie Wonder lost his sight as a baby but his left leg grew four inches longer than his right. Concert pianist Merslov Digitzeroski lost both his hands in a lawn mower accident but learned to play the harp with his nose. Michael Jackson has been dead for several months but he just signed a 270 million dollar contract with Sony to keep producing albums. And I lost my mind and was compensated with an almost unfingerable dyke of ideas. They come at me all the time from all directions. My brain fluid is LSD. I dream of a time when my imagination will just give me a few seconds rest. The woman claiming to be my wife is sick of it. “What time is it, Colin?”

“Here or on the planet Bongk where there are only five minutes in a day?”

“Forget it.”

There. You heard it here first, folks.


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