It was a dark and stormy night and I was washing white sneakers.

To write a novel, a novella or even just a short story, you need an idea, a start. A premise from which your plot can grow.

Sometimes that idea can be a vision of new technology, of a world beyond our own, of characters long ago and far away. Sometimes that idea is an emotion. No matter if it’s anger or sadness or pure happiness, you can harness it into a story. It might seem like there are endless possibilities of where you can go from an empty Word page, but, well, speaking of happiness: whenever you begin to develop an idea, ask yourself: “Does it spark joy?” Because you will need all the joy you can get to keep writing after you notice a plot-hole infestation in your novel on page 120, single-spaced.

When it comes to my own debut sci-fi novel, the idea started out some two years ago as a way of expressing frustration with the quite indecent amount of content being produced through our consumerism, both virtual and physical. Not that I’m guiltless in the matter – literally writing a book to express my displeasure at the amount of stuff being written – ironic, I know.

But what if it all stopped? What if people were unable to produce anything, creative or otherwise, beyond their bare needs?

No spoilers! Just consider those questions…

As for the plot, I got lucky, or inspired, or both and the rough outline emerged in just one evening. I was washing my white sneakers (RIP), laces and soles, and the story was set in motion, coming together while my hands turned to prunes under the suds of Vanish ‘oxi action’ stain remover. Kids, don’t walk through a storm in white shoes!

Washing my next pair of white Nikes (I am incorrigible) is still a way of letting my mind wander through concepts and scenes in my novel. Other times, I’m inspired by talking to others, the truly great ideas arriving while I describe a chapter over a call or am messaging my school artist friends. Sometimes, it’s music or music videos. Films. Other books. Fashion. Emotion, again.

But the biggest source of ideas is the story itself. During my writing, I have made my peace with the notion that my own novel is going to enter the (mostly useless) sea of content, content and ever more content. The characters and the plot evolved, as did I. New things and people came into my life, bringing forth new ideas. Washing my new Nikes brought me new words.

Look for your own story in your own experiences, and learn to set apart the ideas that spark interest or joy. To conclude: write what you enjoy.

Good luck with your own white sneaker thoughts.