A Tried and True Way to Find Story Ideas

During a drive between Aspen and Crested Butte, I saw a tree on the side of the road that had been decorated with green, gold and red garland. A few ornaments, too. There was no house nearby, and no turn-off either. Just the decorated tree sitting on the side of the road. I got curious. Who decorated it? A group of teenagers looking for something to do? A family down the road? Did it mark the site of an accident, like those white crosses and flowers that dot Western highways?

Otto kept me company while I wrote the first draft.

Two days later, I dreamt up an answer in the form of a short story. "My" tree ended up being in Alaska, not Colorado, set up by a woman who lived in the bush with her boyfriend. The story transported me into another time and place, and I got so into the writing that time slipped by faster than I could keep track. I'm now only one or two scenes away from the ending.

So often, aspiring writers wait to write until they have a fully formed idea. And when they have one, writing becomes arduous because they feel like they have to get it right---capture the story on paper exactly as they see it in their minds.

When you write from a place of curiosity, you don't need to wait and there's no pressure to "get it right". You can simply ask yourself, "What if?" You write to see what happens next, and it feels like exploration. It even feels fun.   Is there a risk that it won't turn into anything interesting? Sure. But if you let that stop you, it could mean that you miss out on a brand new story you'd never before imagined.