Kelly Link's thoughts about how to get ideas for stories. With stuff from Kate Wilhelm and Raymond Carver.
Kate Wilhelm...suggests that every writer indirectly collaborates with her subconscious -- she calls this collaborator your Silent Partner -- who supplies you with ideas that you then turn into stories.I love the idea of training the subconscious. But training requires positive reinforcement. What can you give your subconscious that it likes? Purina Id Treats?
Your Silent Partner doesn't discriminate between the good, the bad, the ugly, and the odd. That's your job. When you reject certain kinds of ideas, Wilhelm says, the S.P stops supplying them. If you are too picky, and turn up your nose at all of the ideas that are coming from your subconscious, eventually the S.P stops offering any at all. When you begin to recognize certain kinds of ideas as useful and welcome, Wilhelm suggests that you stop and offer positive reinforcement. That is, think to yourself, "Yes, that's a terrific idea. More like that, please, S.P." -- and the S.P will begin to produce more and more ideas of these fruitful and generative kinds of ideas. As you begin to recognize the kind of ideas that are going to turn into the kind of stories that you want most to write, your subconscious gets even better at fine-tuning the kind of things it provides, as well as faster at giving you useful material.
Incidentally, it's amusing to read Kelly's list of 'things she likes' and notice how many have turned up in her fiction.