Sometimes it's a light bulb moment - I know immediately when I read the prompt what I am going to write (this was the case with Untitled last week). Sometimes twists and turns take me away from the original idea, but it comes with ease. These are the weeks that I relish. Other times I'm more like an unlucky fisherman, continually casting and dragging in nothing but a slightly nibbled piece of bait. It's then that I really begin the freak out process, lose faith in my abilities as a story teller. After all being able to write down a story in a unique, logical, cohesive and readable manner is only part of the gift of a writer - you first have to come up with the idea which you want to put down and explore with your reader.
In moments of extreme creative drought I've turned to my writing oracle. Women Who Run With Wolves is a feminist psychoanalytic exploration of fairy stories - mainly very old ones to do with women's rites of passages. When I first got it (a wonderful $10 buy at bookstore that helps to support a women's shelter in Cairns) and began reading, a friend told me that it could be used for bibliomancy. That is, you can hold a problem in your head, open to a page and find some wisdom to mull over. More recently my soul sister told me that she'd it in the same way as a writing oracle.
Since learning of this useful trick I've turned to it twice. Haefestus came from its use (I now can't remember which story in the book it came from ) and more recently Demon Lover (from the a paragraph in Red Shoes). It's a good fall back, when the the flow of ideas dams or dries up. I've noticed that the harder the idea is to come by - the greater the sense of achievement I feel when it is finally laid down. Sometimes I think that really challenging stories are the best ones that I write.
Julia Cameron suggests that if you're stuck or blocked to mend a piece of clothing or to bake something - the physical process of fixing and mixing works at a creative/unconscious level. I haven't tried either of these ways yet - but it's always good to have some extra untried tricks for when you're really desperate. I've find ideas bubble to the surface when I'm hanging out washing, enjoying a shower, driving in the car or walking - mundane, everyday, repeative things that still the mind. I've also found on the odd occasions that I've been let out of an icky plot spot when I've laid down with Dylan as part of his bedtime routine. Bye Baby Bunting was 'fixed' on one of those evenings.
I think I'll add these collection of 'tricks' to my writer's red, three-level tool box, that Stephen King talks of in 'On Writing'. You never know when you may need a helping hand.
What tricks do you use to feret out ideas for writing? How do you keep the creative juices flowing, and your ideas alive and brilliant?