michaelsussmanEveryone knows it can be tough coming up with story ideas. So, where do I get mine? Sal’s Literary Ideas & Auto Parts in South Boston. Sure, Sal’s prices are steep. But you can’t beat his 30-day warranty.

Seriously, folks. Where do ideas come from?

I concur with Robert Olen Butler, who writes that “art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you.”

How can we gain access to this mysterious unconscious? The key is a relaxed and receptive inward focus. Allow your mind to wander, unhindered by critical analysis or judgment.

I find that I’m most receptive while walking, preferably in a natural setting. Any repetitive movement can help: jogging, bicycling, swimming, davening. A hot bath can also do the trick. Alternatively, just sit or recline in a comfortable position, allow your breathing to deepen, and enter into trance.

Sometimes what surfaces is a story title or the name of a character. I was walking along the Charles River when the name Wiggle-Me-Won’t appeared out of nowhere. This grew into a story in verse concerning twin brothers: Wiggle-Me-Won’t and Wiggle-Me-Will.

More often, an image will surface. I recently awoke with the image of a boy enveloped in a mattress, with only his head and feet sticking out. This image turned into The Sinkopedic 3000, a story about a boy who discovers a world within his mattress.

IdeaCatcherIf none of this helps, consider purchasing my newly developed IdeaCatcher.

We’ve all heard that ideas are “in the air.” Employing the latest in windsock technology, my IdeaCatcher literally snags those suckers as they float by. For a mere $29.95, be the first in your critique group to own this revolutionary device!

Michael Sussman is a clinical psychologist and writer who resides in the Boston area. His debut picture book—Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling, with illustrations by Scott Magoon. Dr. Sussman is also the author of A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy, and the editor of A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice.

Thanks to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for the IdeaCatcher illustration.