Not all writers bear the Type A label, but if you’re a writer who loves to-do lists, you know how hard it can sometimes be to carry a new idea from start to finish.
It’s not that you can’t finish it. Sometimes you do. It’s just, in your mind, never going to be exactly what you want it to be. It’s never going to be the best story, the best dialogue, the right wording, the perfect ending.
The key to creation is to let your ideas take the lead. You are the writer; you need to maintain some control. But you need to share it.
Here’s how to say, “Yes!” to your ideas, and “No” to full control.
Deep breaths. It’s okay. You can do this.
Repeat This Phrase: “There Is No Such Thing as a Dumb Idea”
There are, however, ideas that don’t work out, ideas similar to ones that have been carried out recently and ideas that are great, but not for right now.
You’ll never know whether your idea is one you can work with or not unless you let it begin to unfold in front of you. Sometimes an idea that makes you feel uneasy at first can turn into the best short story, poem or book chapter you’ve ever written.
If it doesn’t end up working out, that doesn’t mean it was a “bad” idea: it may just need to undergo a little metamorphosis before it’s ready to come alive.
Greet Your Idea the Second It Pops In to Say Hello
Okay, practically, this doesn’t always work. You can’t throw down a project at work and pick up a notepad or stand up in the middle of a lecture and proclaim your idea to the overhead projector.
Well, you could. That would probably be counter-productive in more ways than one.
If you’re in a place where it’s possible to open up a Word document or the Notes app on your phone, jot down something that will help you remember your thought. In general, if a new idea comes to mind and you’re already in the middle of another side project, let the idea start developing. Don’t ignore it. While it needs time to come to form in your mind, it also needs attention: neglect it for too long, and it won’t be easy to coax it into cooperating with you later.
Get Ready to Work Hard and Be Terrified
Tape this sentence to your wall: Writing is hard. For some, writing sentences comes easy, but putting those sentences together in the form of a “good” story is not something anyone can do in a day. It’s challenging—but so, so rewarding.
Successful writers work hard. Even if they don’t tell you that, they do. Not only is it hard work: a good idea can actually be scary. It’s the “this is a cool idea other people might like it holy crap what am I doing I never write stuff like this” feeling, a feeling very easy to close yourself off from. Don’t.
You’re not calling yourself the best writer who ever wrote just because you have an idea that makes your heart race. Crave this feeling. Let it carry you through the tough writing days. If your idea is a great one, it will pull you along, not the other way around!
Your ideas are yours: they are special because they are unique. Just like your identity as a writer. Treat your ideas the way they deserve to be treated: nurture them. Let them make their own way in this world (with your constant supervision, of course). Have faith in them. Have faith in yourself.
Say yes to your ideas. Give up your control, and watch them take flight.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.