Have a New Idea? Don’t Start Writing (Yet)

Seriously. Don’t.

This is going to sound bad. But a few weeks ago, I spent an entire church service thinking about an idea I had for a new writing project.

The idea had found me the night before, and I had somehow miraculously managed to fall asleep despite the sudden rush of inspiration (I like to call it Brain Rush, also the name of my writing podcast that hasn’t published a new episode in two years YAY!).

When I woke up that morning, it was all I could think about. But I didn’t have time to sit down and work on it before rushing off to do all the Sunday morning things. Yet as I walked my dog, showered, and did my best to pay attention in church (I promise, I really tried), the idea just kept unfolding and expanding in my head.

I was so … excited to go home and get some work done. Which, as you probably know from experience, doesn’t always happen when there’s a writing task hanging over your head.

By the time I was finally able to sit down and spend some time alone with that idea, I felt like my brain was on fire. Weirdly, a good kind of fire, but fire all the same. I felt like I physically could not keep it locked inside my mind for another second.

Some of the most fascinating parts about writing are those occasional moments you and one of your ideas are so in sync that you barely register how much you’ve written until you remember to take a moment to breathe. You really do find yourself lost in time. You transported yourself to another world for a while without actually going anywhere.

Coming back from that can be disorienting. But also … look how much you wrote!

This happens to me more and more the busier I get (it’s a healthy kind of busy). I’m not always sitting at my desk or able to tab over to a personal document when I get a new idea for something. And while you can take a second to jot down a few notes in your phone, I think there’s something beneficial about letting an idea start to form in your head before you actually begin working on it.

Think about it. How many times have you stumbled upon a new idea, started working on it that second, and quickly “got bored” because your idea was still just a spark instead of a flame?

Wait until it ignites. And then let it burn.

I don’t know about you. But one of my favorite things about telling a story is letting events play out in my head like a movie before I write them out. It’s fun. And it almost never comes out on paper the way it formed in your head — and there’s something very thrilling about that.

Let your excitement build. Let things unravel before you start creating. Give an idea time to heat up before you run with it. I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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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11 thoughts on “Have a New Idea? Don’t Start Writing (Yet)

  1. Reblogged this on Ann Writes Inspiration and commented:
    Oh yes, I love this one! My NaNoWriMo novel called Hidden Gems was like that. it all started with a dream and then the spark turned into a flame over time. I wrote down plot ideas for it a little along, until I started writing it on October 31.
    Sometimes blog posts are like that for me. Stay tuned for today’s blog post where I reveal an aha moment I had a few weeks ago. I let the post grow cold, because I didn’t have time to work on it. I also wanted to see if the idea came to me again, or should I just let it go. However, the idea came to me twice. I love it when my brain is on fire and an idea won’t let me go! Thanks for sharing this tip.

  2. I’ve actually experienced this! I always find your posts to mirror something I’ve experienced or spent time wondering about. Thanks for the encouragement and clarity.

  3. Loved your post–as always–and I agree that letting an idea simmer is better than burning out all at once. What I do now is outline. I make sure to get the premise down somewhere, otherwise I’ll lose it forever.

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