Somewhere between rinse and repeat it happened: The idea! What idea? Wait, was it the one for the blog post, for that troubling scene in my manuscript, or that money-maker that just needs a little tweaking. Damn! What idea just went down the drain? How do I get started with writing articles or song lyrics without music?
Ideas will come and go, and no matter how many pads of paper you have lying around or digital audio recorders that seem to pick up more ghostly electronic voice phenomena than cogent story ideas, you just don’t seem to catch all of them.
You’re a writer. Don’t sweat it. Don’t sweat it, he says? Easy for him to say!
Yes, it is. My first editor had a bumper sticker on her wall: Deadlines amuse me. Of course, deadlines need to be met, and they are, but they may not always be met with the excellence you expect when the date is assigned. The best way to alleviate that problem, in my opinion, is to keep writing.
When you write every day, your mind seems to change. I don’t know exactly why, but I liken it to the way bodies undergo natural transformations when they exercise regularly. When you write every day, whether it’s on your fiction or on a newspaper article or on a blog post, or as you zip through Facebook to share what’s up with some of your friends, your brain makes associations. These are the stuff that dreams are made. And ideas. Read also this post about how to sell your lyrics, books, or articles online.
Remember the scene from the movie Ghost when Whoopi Goldberg’s character realized she actually could hear the voices of spirits like the dream she was naked? After that, every spook in Manhattan came to her shop to talk to the living. It was driving her batty. So too with writing. You’ll have so many ideas you don’t know what to do with them all. Try as you might, you can’t possibly write everything down. Do what you can.
More importantly, find time to think about them. What are these ideas? Is this one just a scene? Is it just a clever wordplay that might fit with a character or a public domain you first wrote about in high school? Is it something that actually holds the power of a novel? I remember the first time I realized I had just imagined a novel. I literally stopped on the sidewalk. (And just now, as soon as I wrote the word ‘sidewalk,’ I realized I had to tell my wife something that one of my daughters did the other day. … see how this happens?)
So I say again: Don’t sweat coming up with ideas. Don’t worry about what you’re going to write. Just write. (Ok, now I have that image from The Shining … All work and no play make Jack a dull boy … These word association things can get really annoying!).