I often find that being a bit useless helps create new ideas (not that I need much help with that); mishearing, misreading, misunderstanding. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a notice on the bus which said ‘if you are involved in or witness…’ whatever it was expecting you to witness, but I saw ‘if you are involved with a witch…’. Now admittedly I’d had a tiring day at work, and not the best night’s sleep the night before, but my brain makes these bizarre leaps all the time, and sometimes they’re so intriguing I have to go away and write the story behind them. Or at least I have to go away and write down a sketchy outline for the story behind them, together with three exchanges of dialogue and a description of some scene, then leave my notes alone for six months or until I can no longer quite remember what I had in mind, whichever is the longer.
Probably the best instance of mistaken creation was Moondog; I misheard a song-title on the radio, I can’t even remember what the real title was but it was nothing like Moondog. I was disappointed when I realised I’d got it wrong, because Moondog was a whole lot better, so I wrote it down in case it wanted to be the title of something after all. Best children’s story I’ve ever written.