Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – Where do you get your ideas?

That’s it. The new book is at the printer, it is finished and off my desk. When it is published (made available to the public, that is) next week, it will acquire a life of its own and people will ask me questions about it which will surprise me since the content of the question will show that what they have read is not what I think I wrote but that is the nature of these things. One question which frequently pops up is ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ The highly successful and prolific writer Jodie Picoult is asked this a lot and her response is that her ideas for new books are delivered in a parcel every Thursday which is about as detailed a reply as is possible where a short, snappy answer is expected and I hope her readers take it in the spirit in which I’m sure it was intended.

The thing is that no-one really knows where ideas come from. They just come; a few words or a sentence whispered in one’s ear, usually at an inconvenient moment, are often the beginning of a new book or, indeed, an article, such as this one. I usually say to those who kindly enquire that I have much to thank Sauvignon Blanc for regarding my ideas and it is true that several glasses from a nicely chilled bottle do much for my creativity but even I know that the wine is not giving me the ideas – it merely makes me more receptive to them.

If pressed on this subject, I would until recently have said something about the ideas ‘being out there’ and ‘finding a way to tap into them’, knowing that this sounds odd to anyone not personally involved in a creative process. However, someone recently drew a terrific video to my attention and I am now much more confident about where and how the ideas are generated and communicated. The video is one of the TED series and is available on YouTube. The speaker is Elizabeth Gilbert of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame and in a twenty minute talk, entirely without notes, she amusingly describes the fear we all feel that any success will be followed by abject failure and how, for example, writers are expected to suffer angst in a way in which, for example, chemical engineers and plumbers are not. She tells how in the ancient world, creativity was regarded as a divine, attendant spirit which came from elsewhere and would inspire and assist the creative process. The Romans called this spirit a ‘genius’ and, until the Renaissance, the genius was always seen as separate from the artist it inspired and there was less pressure on the creative person since it was generally believed that the source of that person’s creativity was nothing internal and success and failure were, therefore, less personal.

Without in any way comparing myself with Elizabeth Gilbert, I really like this idea and it chimes with my own experience so, if my new book is truly wonderful, then it’s thanks to my genius, which, of course, is not me at all.

Book Review – It’s All News To Me – Jeremy Vine

This month, I would like to review a new book, Jeremy Vine’s autobiography, ‘It’s All News To Me’. In reviewing this book, I must first of all state that I am not a huge fan of Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show and so I came to his story with quite a prejudice against him as being, in my view, one of those smug, arrogant, glib, Metrocentric, soft-left know-alls with which the Beeb is crammed. Having read the book with great enjoyment, I still have the same views about him but now need to give him huge credit for being highly amusing and very professional.

Jeremy Vine’s life story tells us much about the nature of journalism, BBC management, the hand-to-mouth nature of broadcasting news and the larger than life personalities which inhabit this seemingly glamorous world which is so alien to most of us. As he was a Parliamentary correspondent for some years, Vine is a fan of the greatest of them all, John Serjeant. There is a very telling vignette illustrative of the shaky nature of BBC life, where Vine, having told Sejeant that he was proud to be the youngest ever Westminster correspondent, was put in his place when Serjeant, deadpan, replied that much the better trick would be to be the oldest. It is also very telling that Vine devotes a whole chapter in this section of the book to his relationship with Peter Mandelson and, for a man whose bread and butter is words, he is hard pressed to find any which adequately describe the ‘Prince of Darkness’.

Jeremy Vine’s autobiography - It’s All News To Me

To be fair to Vine, he did a long stint in Africa and showed that he is no coward when it comes to the front line but his instincts of self-preservation were equally challenged when he was appointed one of the Newsnight presenters where he felt so cowed by the presence of the great Paxman that he formulated the law that in television there must never be more than one Jeremy per show and he felt that the BBC had broken this law to his detriment.

A theme running through the book is the nature of news; Vine returns time and again to the question ‘What is news?’ and answers it in various ways including the events of the day during the last General Election when his Radio 2 show was able to confront PM Gordon Brown with his own words about the Labour supporter whom he had described as ‘some bigoted woman’. This was surely one of the highlights of his eventful and distinguished career but Jeremy Vine appears not to take anything seriously. I enjoyed every minute of this fascinating and funny book but I finished it not liking Vine any more than when I began it and I felt that, whatever the true nature of news, it belongs to us all and is not the plaything of Jeremy Vine.

‘Its All News To Me’, is available in hard back and e-formats. ****

By J.A. Gordon

More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon – Shropshire Writer in Residence
Discovering e-publishing and Tamara Drewe book review
The bane of Christmas Books and Living Life Without Loving the Beatles Review
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writer’s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – Jeremy’s tweet and the launch party

All about J.A. Gordon

Judith Gordon is a barrister and was an in-house lawyer and long distance commuter for twenty years before redundancy made her see that there is life after the corporate rat race. She moved to Shropshire in 2007 with her husband and adores the fabulous food and spectacular scenery although recent winters have been a bit of a trial. In addition to her writing, Judith is Strategy Director of face2face solicitors a national franchise. Judith’s books are available online and from booksellers, see for more information.