I’m occasionally asked where my ideas come from, and I usually give a vague answer. Most writers do. After all, we don’t want to make it too easy. And if everyone took up writing, who'd be left to feed us? But I also believe in sharing. It’s just smart business. And today, I’m in a sharing mode. So, here goes.
I get my ideas from a discreet mail order company. Yeah, nothing spectacular. Maybe that’s why so few people know about it. You’d expect ideas to come from some cosmic, parallel-world place. But, nope.
You can’t find the company on the Web, so don’t bother. They’ve been around for a long, long time, and prefer anonymity. They use the old hand-delivery method, and you place your order by mail. I usually order a great amount, because the ideas are about a dime a dozen—literally—and most of them are small. There are four basic packages:
GrandCentral—1000 ideas for $99.95
Centumplex—100 for $9.99
60-Watt—60 for $6
Starter-Pak—20 for $2
(Shipping and handling determined by your location.)
I usually order a few of the Centumplexes, or a GrandCentral, because the bigger the order, the higher your chances of getting a big idea. The company knows this and that’s how they make a profit. They maintain that the selection process is random. They use a hand scoop, a snow shovel, or a bucket loader, depending on the size of your order. Once you place your order, a plainly wrapped box with a modest label is delivered to your door. It takes two to seven days, depending on where you live. You’re required to sign for the package.
It’s always a thrill for me to open the box. I immediately look for a big idea. Most of the ideas are like pebbles, or Jelly Bellies. I use a magnifying glass to read the small print. Some of the ideas are crazy, and act like Mexican jumping beans. Remove any ideas that seem rotten, or you run the risk of others rotting, too. The bad ones are usually rip-offs of something profound. Once I found a cheap imitation of Milton Glaser’s I♥NY and complained to customer service it had little connection with writing, and they explained that now and then ideas from another division (in this case Marketing) get misplaced. Many of the ideas are dull, but you will see a few bright ones, and that’s always a treat. And if you’re lucky, there’ll be a big one, even two or three. The big ones have a more interesting shape and a deep patina, and can be read with your unaided eye.
The company also offers inklings and notions, which are dirt cheap and recyclable. If you don’t see any you can develop further, just return the lot within the 10-day period and get your money back, minus the S&H. It sounds like a bargain, but I’ve never seen anything I could really use. I think it’s basically stuff they sweep off the floor.
There you have it. The secret is out. (Not entirely, of course: Notice I haven’t given any contact information. I believe every writer must discover that for himself.)
By the way, the idea for this article came from an order I received last week. It was one of the smaller ideas, but it was bright, and it works.