A tale I heard
Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, on copying his uncle when asked 'Where do your stories come from?':
"I'd say, 'Uncle August, tell me a story.' Peering over his glasses he'd say, 'First you have to wind up my thinking machine.' And, as I had done many times before, I began to wind an imaginary lever near his temple.
After a little while, all along he had made whirring noises, he shouted, 'Halt! I have a story for you!' I like my Uncle August's answer to where stories come from. They come from your thinking machine. All you have to do is wind it up."