Where Do Ideas Come From?

“Where do ideas come from?” had we pondering after I had written the post about my ghosts in the form of persistent ideas for books that will not leave me to peace and rest until I acknowledge them and knock out a book in their honor.  That is the primary source for my ideas for books.  However, there was that special time when a powerful picture set me off and had me rabid to write a book about the historical mystique of lighthouses. In my previous article, quotes were given about authors and how they got ideas for writing.  Gore Vidal, American novelist, playwright, and essayist gave her simple answer. “Anything can set things going—an encounter, a recollection.  I think writers are great remembers.” Such was the intrigue for the grand ladies of the sea who once stood sentinel to guard our seafarers away from and back again to their homes.

How did that idea get planted in my mind?  There were two encounters.  The emotional tug began with my two sons who are coastguardsmen. The second was a picture that was taken of my two sons while at sea performing a rescue operation. Never did I set out to write a historical fiction, but as the writer’s mind will have its way, these two factors set the scene for my first historical fiction novel. Keepers of the Light~Look to the Light and you will Find me~ began its incubation at 5:00 a.m. on a humid morning as I walked the beach of Hillsboro Lighthouse consumed with drinking in the scene and writing my ideas down on a soggy loose leaf notebook page that fluttered in the stiff breeze and too often had me chasing it down on the beach.

The idea to write a book about the history of lighthouses and how they are interwoven with the Coast Guard came to me after my son’s assumption of command for a Coast Guard cutter.  His celebration was at the quaint quarters on the Hillsboro Inlet in Florida.  It was the morning after this ceremony that “Ideas come to a writer; a writer does not search for them…” (Patricia Highsmith) proved this source to me.  It was later that the power of a visual—a picture, a  flag, a lighthouse, and a headstone further fueled a writer’s simple reply as to where ideas come from when he said, “I don’t get them.  They get me.” (Robertson Davies)

As you look at this Coast Guard helicopter hovering over a raging sea and a U S Coast Guard cutter rising and falling with the turbulent waves, a man is seen being deployed from the helicopter where he will rescue an individual in distress.  The victim of the angry sea will be put in a rescue basket and reeled to safety by the helicopter crew. This could easily be a scene from The Guardian movie or a routine day in the training or actual rescue mission for a US Coast Guard helicopter and cutter crew. For this proud mom, it served as a powerful nudge to write about lighthouse history and the strong connection with the United States Coast Guard.

There is nothing “routine” about this picture for me, the mom and writer.  The pilot of the helicopter is my son number 1, and the Captain of the cutter is my son number 2.  It is rare that a mom is presented with such a special photo shot and one that is “the real deal.”  Actually, so emotionally attached to this photo, I took on my graphic department during the publication of the lighthouse book and demanded that the actual photo be used on the back cover of the book, Keepers of the Light. They argued that the photo was too small and tried convincing me that they could get a like scene and use for the cover.  For this argument, I became the “grizzly mom” and stood my ground.  I won the battle.  The picture on the back cover of Keepers of the Light is the actual shot of my two sons making a rescue at sea. Their motto is “Semper Paratus” and they live their lives ever ready to serve.

Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas?  My standard answer for how I came to write Keepers of the Light is written in my Author’s Note. “It was in the wee hours of a pre-dawn on the Hillsboro grounds where I embraced my gift of solitude that three ordinary objects—a flag, a lighthouse, and a single headstone—cast a spell over me and inspired me to write the story…” The picture of my sons that you see here became a strong influence and added fuel to my passion when I had those down times and asked, “Where do I go from here?”  That ghost was ever present, nudging me forward until the last word was typed and my hands were lifted from the keyboard.


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