Every published author will eventually be asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Stephen King has his “boys in the basement.” Riffing off of that, I have my aunts in the attic. (And probably bells in my belfry, as well.)

Victor Banis has his muse Snotty. Other writers and artists have had muses through the ages.

A muse is defined as: a spirit or source that inspires an artist. Some famous writers, such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, used real women as their muses, then married them. Unfortunately, the muses soon divorced the writers. I don’t know what that did for the writing of the writers, but it couldn’t have been very good in the short run. In the long run, it may have inspired a lot of writing, especially about what women are like. Or what they thought women were like.

For me, a muse is a spirit. A made-up-by-me spirit. But besides the aunts in the attic, and perhaps the Mad Hatter, I don’t really have any muses that I call on regularly. When muses are mentioned, I think of the aunts and the hatter, but otherwise, not very much.

If you dig deeper into the idea of a muse as inspiration, you realize it is really only a trigger. Or something to get angry with when the inspiration isn’t there.

In order to really get ideas, I suggest more concrete tactics. To start, just pick something, anything. Animal, mineral, vegetable. Rock, paper, scissors. Then pick another and another. It would help if they are not usually associated with each other. Next write whatever comes to mind for as long as you can. Eventually you most likely will get stuck and not know what to write next. Ask yourself, what if, and list all the things that could possibly happen next. Pick one, or combine some, and off you go again. It can be weird, strange, unlikely, odd, whatever. Quirky is good.

Other ways are to visit places you’ve never been before, people watch at the mall, look at pictures of strangers or even of people you know—one or two of their traits might spark something.

The trick is to absolutely believe that you will come up with something. If you write steadily every day for about a month, this confidence will come more easily. I’ve written so much that I never have any doubt that I can come up with something, that really, I’ll never have enough time to write everything I can think of into publishable form.

So, if you think having a muse will help, make one up or use a real person for inspiration. If you just want to go right to the writing, pick a few fun things to write about and Go.