“Where do you come up with this sh%t?”
That’s the question I’m asked – we’re all asked – more than any other. My brother. Parents. Friends. Readers. Co-workers. Strangely, not my wife (that’s how you know you’re with the right one).
I’ve seen writers get frustrated with it. I think it’s because they’ve been asked it so many times they just want to get onto the next part of the conversation, but it strikes me that for a reader – someone who appreciates the art – this really is the most obvious and perhaps interesting question.
While working as a freelance journalist, I used to get magazine assignments where I had to profile a tech company or CEO about their new-fangled creation. Some of the tech was pretty cool, most of it leading edge. Invariably I asked, where did you get the idea from?
As a business journalist, I interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and innovators, and that question was always part of the interview. Sometimes I already knew the answer and just wanted to hear them say it so I could quote it; other times, I didn’t. Regardless, I asked and then often printed the answer because it was interesting, and I knew my audience wanted to know the answer. I was asking the question for them.
The desire for people to understand one another, to communicate, to draw out the secret sauce that spurs creation and generates success is timeless. If you happen to meet a magician, I bet you’ll ask – or want to ask – how the trick works, even if you know the answer will ruin it for you. Same with a bridge engineer, or someone who builds power plants. Heck, even my contractor – I was floored with a solution he came up with for part of our roof replacement, and asked him, how did you come up with that?