Between writing poetry and fiction, I write something every day. My non-writer friends often ask me where I get ideas from. How do I decide what I will write about? That's the wrong question. Ideas are everywhere.
Today at the coffee shop where I have lunch, there was a commotion because an elderly lady only had a credit card and the shop doesn't take credit cards. Impeccably dressed and coiffed, she kept expressing her disbelief that someone wouldn't take credit cards and I could clearly see her distress over not being able to order lunch. The waitress bought her a cup of coffee and another patron fronted her the cost of her sandwich. That's a story. Who was the woman? How did she come to be in this lunchenette alone with no money and a credit card. Where does she go after lunch?
Maybe someday, this interaction will find itself in one of my stories. Probably as a characterization piece. Perhaps I will take the POV of the waitress. Or maybe my POV character is a college student with $5.00 in her pocket and guilt over not coming through for the woman. Who knows?
Well before I started to write, I always played the "who's that?" game. I would watch or listen to people in the environment and invent their whole lives. Married? Gay? Straight? He's wearing women's underwear. She hates her husband. She bought those flowers for her mother but will throw them in the dumpster before she reaches the hospital room. He lost his job a month ago and hasn't told his family.
These invented lives are the fodder for plot, conflict, and character.
The problem isn't of what to write, but how to limit the 'plot bunnies' that roll around in the writer's mind. Last night at dinner I confessed that I had a plot/idea for a short story. After the mock horror faded, my family began to pitch suggestions for the story. All I want to do is sweep this one back under the bed until MindBlind is complete. But no, the family had to encourage me, enable me to spin off into another direction.
I think I need a 12-step program for writers.