I am frequently asked how I come up with story ideas. I tell people, "Everywhere. My problem isn't developing topics for books but focusing on one of my many ideas." First of all, I read constantly. When I am not writing, I am reading. I have a Kindle so it's easy to shuffle through books. Today, I was re-reading parts of the Bleak House by Charles Dickens, an erotica book by a new author, a book on game theory, a history of Area 51 and a YA novel. I also read the news that showed up in my Google Reader. Reading stories will give you ideas for more stories. One of the stories I read today was about a couple who had been married for 65 years and then died hours apart. That's one of those moving stories that make you take a pause and assess life and love. I jotted some noted about the story and put a star next to it. I will intentionally forget it for days, weeks or possibly years. Stories need to settle or digest before you can start forming them into stories with your own unique style.
Story ideas can be gleaned from all of life's experiences and not just reading. There have been countless times where someone made an interesting statement and it stayed with me and somehow made it into a story a year or even five years later. I am also constantly drawing on my childhood for inspiration. With all the things I read and experience I have learned to keep a journal to jot down ideas and thoughts. Some people keep small notebooks. I remember there was an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David loss a small notebook where he kept his ideas for stories, jokes etc. Larry was destroyed without it. I think I would be too. However, I keep a bigger notebook so losing it out of my pocket is not possible. I bought a bigger purse so I would never have to be without it. The "Idea Journal" is a great way to develop ideas for stories. Journals don't have to be the pouring out of emotions or rote descriptions of the weather. I'm not even sure why people comment about the weather in their journals. Here's advice, don't write about the weather. But that weird habit your co-worker has of constantly clearing his throat and then whistling, record that.
You don't have to know how all your ideas and observations can fit into a story right away. It will come to you. If you're a writer, stories will always come to you.