One of the questions nearly every writer eventually gets asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s not an easy question to answer, because I suspect most of the time, most writers don’t know where their ideas come from! Sure, there might be a specific thing that sparks a specific idea, but these sources of inspiration are anything but predictable, and the truth is that there’s no reliable fountain of ideas.

For example, while plotting Akithar’s Greatest Trick, I listened to a podcast episode about a robbery at a museum. My subconscious filed away the basic ideas from that podcast, and I strongly suspect that’s what inspired one of the core events that happens in part 3 of the book. By the time I wrote those chapters, the events bore little to no resemblance to the museum robbery I had heard about. Nevertheless, I’m able to point back to that podcast episode as the likely origin of one idea in that part of the book.

As for the initial idea for that book and for Teshovar as a whole? I have no clue where that originated! One day, the idea of the High Lord Peregrine came to me, essentially fully formed. I suspect that character is my brain’s automatic assembly of lots of characters, media, and ideas I’ve consumed throughout my lifetime. Wherever it came from, Peregrine was the beginning of Teshovar. Once I had the concept of that character, I built outwards, imagining the type of world where a character like that could exist. One detail led to another, and I eventually had the basics of my worldbuilding completed, along with a significant portion of the series plot arc mapped out.

Another reason it’s hard to answer the question of where ideas come from is that most writers have no shortage of ideas. We are constantly coming up with new things we want to write, and we don’t have time to consider what caused all those ideas or where they came from. The best we can hope to do is keep track of those rapid-fire ideas in some way that we can revisit them later. I use a red, spiral-bound notebook for writing mine down. If I have an idea and don’t write it down immediately, another idea will replace it before the end of the day, and that initial idea will be lost and gone.

The real trick to writing isn’t about coming up with ideas; it’s about executing on the ideas I already have. Ideas are in no short supply, but time is. There simply isn’t enough time to use every idea I’ve logged in that notebook, much less every good idea that’s in there (and there are a lot of not-good ones!). I look through the notebook every once in a while and find inspiration from some of the ideas I’ve written there. Often, I don’t even remember having had those ideas in the first place.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that I get my ideas from everywhere and nowhere. Something in my life and experience surely sparks every idea I get, but I rarely can identify what prompted any given idea. And that doesn’t even matter, because ideas honestly are very cheap. It’s the execution that matters.