“I get great ideas all the time. And promptly forget ’em. Ideas are like raindrops in the Pacific Northwest. Grains of sand in the Sahara. Plenty out there. It’s the Butt in Chair time that distinguishes writers from wannabes.” – David Pascoe
“This is why I don’t mind giving away ideas. They are free, because they don’t have stories and real characters attached. I can always get another idea. It’s the story and the characters that are truly valuable. (Though I can’t let them RULE… or there is chaos. Believe me). Besides, “nothing new under the sun”, but things that exist are more important than things that are in potential.” – Margot St. Aubin
I got into one of those terrific conversations you can have online with like-minded people, and had a realization. Ideas are potential, but when you turn them into a story, you release that, and it becomes kinetic. The momentum of developing a world, peopling it, and adding conflict, resolution, and working at the writing, that is what makes a writer.
Writing, and reading, seem to be one of the most passive sports there is, until you consider the mystery that is our brain, and mirror neurons. While still poorly understood, the thing that is certain is: they allow us to feel what others are feeling. While we are reading, then, we are vicariously living through the characters. This doesn’t seem like a new thought, we’ve all used books to escape our humdrum lives and go ‘elsewhere’ for a while. Have you ever felt wrung out and exhausted after reading a really good book? Mirror neurons explain that ‘book hangover’ very well.
So reading is then a kinetic exercise, not just sitting in a chair scanning words. Writing is the way we turn the potential energy of ideas into that kinetic energy for the reader. Is it any wonder a good writer can lay down words and walk away feeling worn out? Not to mention, unlike the physical realm, the energy an idea sparks seems endless. It’s not limited to one or two treatments. Hand a single idea to ten writers, and you will get back ten very different stories.
If you have trouble coming up with ideas for stories, consider that you may be trying too hard. Ask for ideas. Anyone unwilling to share an idea doesn’t realize the potential energy held within it, far more than they can fully grasp. An idea doesn’t have to be lengthy, I wrote a story based off two words once. Find a group of writers and share story challenges. I participated in a group like that for about a year, and it was a terrific writing exercise, to fit these short idea challenges into the confines of a story, essay, or poem.
When you have an idea, even if you don’t have time to write it, or aren’t sure where it’s going, jot it down. You may come back to it later and be able to develop its potential. Or you can hand it off to someone else, as the leader of our writing group did recently, with a paragraph that has spawned close to 20 stories from a single seed. Every one of them different and exciting.
What’s your latest idea?