We fiction writers are regularly harangued with the question,
“Where do you get all those weird ideas?”
Instead, I’d like to counter with the question, “Where do we get that word, idea?”
One of idea’s oldest non-living relatives was the proto-Indo-European term wid-es-ya which comes from weid-, “to see.” Over centuries, this oozed into the Greek word, idein, which continued to mean “to see.” About 400 BC, Plato introduced the meaning, "an externally existing idea from which individual things derive their existence but are only imperfect copies.” By the late 1300s idea had made its way into English, and developed the lofty, somewhat metaphysical meaning, “an archetype of a thing in the mind of God.” Whoa.
When it comes to writing, all these shades of meaning seem to apply.
--Doesn’t a well-told tale help us see the world in a new light?
--Does any draft ever reach a point above imperfection?
--Aren’t stories all about the true essence of things, more than what might have actually happened?
--And as for “…the mind of God,” many might argue that the writer plays a somewhat godlike role in his/her characters’ lives, while others might argue that the only true ideas come from the mind of God.
So, where do you get all your weird ideas? Or for that matter, what are your thoughts on the word, idea?
Thanks to this week’s sources: etymonline.com, the OED, & http://www.wordwizard.com.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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