It’s a Good Story — But Do You Really Want to Write It?

You shouldn’t feel like you “have to.”

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Pitching is a large part of my day job. It’s a skill you start learning early on in your career and continue to develop the more time you spend writing for a living.

Sometimes, I come up with really good ideas. Story headlines I know will perform well on our website. Subjects that will grab attention without deception (the best kinds of stories, really).

But I don’t always end up writing those stories.

Sometimes, I pass those ideas on to other writers on my team, who I know would really enjoy writing about a particular topic — more than I would, at least.

Sometimes, I just never end up writing them. They sit in my assignment queue for a few weeks and then I move them over to my “review later” tab in case they ever become relevant again.

When you accidentally come up with a new story idea — let’s be honest, more often than not, it’s completely unintentional — every once in awhile, it’s a really good idea. You can feel it in your gut. It may not be “the next Harry Potter,” but you just have this notion that it will grab an agent or publisher’s attention. Readers will find it interesting. With a little work, it might actually take off.

But even though it’s a great idea … the thought of actually sitting down to write it doesn’t seem quite as exciting as the idea itself.

Maybe you even sit down to write a few pages, and just don’t feel that “into” it.

There’s nothing wrong with you. Your lack of interest doesn’t make you lazy or “a bad writer.”

It’s very possible you came up with a really good story idea, but you’re not really interested in actually putting that idea into words.

Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean you have to write it.

I know this sounds strange. We spend so much time trying to come up with an idea we know will work. Why would we not jump at any possible chance we might have to make something out of it?

Here’s the thing …

As important as it may be for writers to come up with ideas that will “sell,” that doesn’t mean you’re only allowed to work on the biggest, most marketable ideas. Your interest level also matters. Readers can tell when you’ve written something you really couldn’t care less about — at least most of the time. You can only “fake it” to such a degree before it becomes tiring.

Sometimes, when you have a choice between the “next big idea” and “the idea that wakes you up in the middle of the night because you’re so gosh darn excited about it,” it’s OK to go with the latter. It’s OK to choose happiness over profit, so to speak.

The next time you come up with a good idea, don’t just dive straight into it. First ask yourself, “Is this really something I want to spend the next two to three years of my life working on? Am I excited about this? Or am I just intrigued because it might be really popular?”

Go with your gut. But always remember that your ability to stay committed to something largely depends on how invested you are in every fiber of its existence. If your heart’s not in it, and you’d much rather say you wrote it — instead of actually sitting down and writing it — maybe pass it on to someone else. Or set it aside for now. You can always return to it later.

If it’s truly an idea worth pursuing, it won’t disappear forever.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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4 thoughts on “It’s a Good Story — But Do You Really Want to Write It?

  1. I like to maintain an ongoing list of ideas as a Word document. I often find that it takes a few different ideas, melded together, to really be ready for a rough draft. As you say, sometimes an idea doesn’t pop for you, in this moment, but as long as you’re writing something, that’s all that really matters, I think. Once they’re written down the other ideas will wait for you. In some ways I think there’s something comforting about having more ideas than one knows what to do with, or has time to write. Even if there does come a time where new ideas no longer flow so freely, there’s always the old slush pile to sift through.

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