Solution Saturday: I Have a Story Idea, but Lack the Discipline to Write It

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At least, that’s what you think.

Welcome to our first Solution Saturday, your chance to find solutions to the “writer problems” keeping you from achieving your literary ambitions.

There are a lot of people wandering around the globe with amazing ideas in their heads. For some reason, humans are really good at coming up with stories. We’ve been telling them for centuries. We’re constantly seeking out new stories to read, when it feels like we’ve run out of our own to tell.

Some writers are really good at transferring their ideas from head to hand. They can get an idea and start working on it instantly, if they want to. Some writers have a little bit more difficulty, as we like to say here, putting their ideas into words.

If the latter describes you, you’re in the right place.

Does this “writer problem” make you a bad writer? Of course not. Anyone with an idea can turn that idea into something real.

Let’s say you have this great story idea. You’ve had it in your head for a long time. You keep meaning to work it out, to start writing it even in small bits and pieces. But it seems you just don’t have the “discipline” to make any progress.

So. How do you change that?

Here are a few solutions to help you turn your idea into a real, physical piece of writing.

Solution 1: Talk About It

This isn’t necessarily a suggestion to drag your closest friend into a secluded corner of the nearest coffee shop and spilling your idea out on the table for them. But if that’s what you think might help you—if you’re one of those people who has to “talk out” their problems—go for it. Just ask them if it’s okay first. If they’re willing to listen, both of you might end up benefitting from the experience.

If you’re not comfortable telling other people about your ideas, this is where a journal, private blog, unlisted video blog or imaginary friend/stuffed animal/God can come in handy (if applicable?). Talk to yourself, for what it’s worth. The simple act of speaking or writing aimlessly about your thoughts might help you get a better grasp on what you want to do with the idea next.

Solution 2: Outline It

Okay, so you might not be a huge fan of outlining. Years of forced outlining for a grade in English class may have turned you off to the process a long time ago. But this is your idea, your work. You don’t have to do it in any specific format. You don’t have to explain your thoughts in detail, if you’re not ready to. It doesn’t even have to make sense.

Start by jotting down anything you think of when your idea comes to mind—in a Word document, on the back of a napkin, whatever works for you (just don’t accidentally thorw away the napkin). A place? A problem? A character’s name or a vague description of a made-up historical event? Think of the fragmented shards of information you may or may not have told someone else. It doesn’t matter how organized (or not) you present it. Sometimes, just getting it out of your head is the first of many triumphant steps.

Solution 3: Schedule It 

If your biggest struggle is finding the time to sit down and crank out a few hundred words here and there, you have to make it work to fit your lifestyle. If you work full-time and have evening obligations, you might only have time for 10 minutes of writing before bed. Ten minutes is better than zero, but the key here is to make the process part of your routine as soon as possible.

Five minutes of your lunch break, the commute home (unless you drive—please don’t write and drive!), between classes, while you’re waiting for your mocha Frapp at Starbucks—whatever works. It doesn’t have to take large chunks out of your day. Once you get better at keeping up with it, you can work toward dedicating more time to each scribble session. 

June already? Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us! Check out our tips for making time to write when you don’t have any.

Don’t get discouraged if you’re still having trouble getting your ideas out. It’s a skill, just like learning to read. No one is going to steal your idea. And if they do, well, they’re dumb. You thought of it first.

Give it time, and be patient. You are a writer with an idea. You are more powerful, and capable, than you know.

Do you have a “writer problem” that you can’t seem to find a solution to? Leave a comment or tweet @MegDowell with the hashtag #NRSaturdaySolutions and we might help you solve your problem in next week’s post!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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