Fighting your fears to build good ideas

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This past week and next we’re all writing about some aspect of ideas on this blog, and I’m going to take my shot at three fears that I face around ideas.

My ideas aren’t very original!

This might be the most common fear based on discussions I have with other writers. I have an idea, but… well, it doesn’t really get me excited. It’s an idea, sure, but it isn’t anything that exciting. I’m pretty sure others have thought of this before me, and in all likelihood they were smarter and better writers than me so could do more with it.

What I’ve learned is that I’m often way too critical of my initial ideas, but even when they really aren’t that great they frequently lead to something that is. So I will dutifully write them down in my notebook, sometimes with a shrug, and come back to them later. My best screenplay came from a random, silly idea that I wrote down and slowly grew and nurtured.  Take all the ideas you get as gifts – there may be more to them after you unwrap them.

People will laugh at my ideas!

Orangutan in Aalborg Zoo, Denmark

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This happens to me. A lot.  But I come up with silly ideas and have a tendency (perhaps quite under-restrained) to share them quite broadly. In most cases I have a thick skin about it, but sometimes I care about an idea so much, I get hesitant to share it for fear of the reaction it might create. What if my mental Emperor has no clothes?  So the ideas I end up sharing the least are the ones I like the most. Pretty brilliant, eh?

I’m also not unique in this wonderful problem. Nearly every I’ve ever spoken with at length tells me, at some point, of this idea they have they really like but don’t know what to do with, that they’re not ready to share, and they will tell me about at some point when they have polished it up a bit. I rarely ever get that polished version.  Maybe it is only in the Misery Loves Company category, but it helps me to know that others struggle with this, too.

Getting around this fear requires some trust. What helped me is connecting with some fellow writers who will be supportive of what I’m trying to do without shining me on.  If my brilliant idea sucks, I still want to hear that, but I also need ideas how to make it better, stronger, faster.  I have the technology, so how can I rebuild it?  Knowing that others are there to help makes a huge difference.

My ideas will stop coming!

I used to do short-form comedic improv, and I’d often wonder where my ideas were coming from. I had no time to “think” about what I would say; I’d just react.  Often nothing of note would come from my mouth, but other times something downright brilliant would emerge and I’d be as stunned as everybody else. Of all the ancient Gods and spirits, I probably understand best why people believed in the Muses. How can these ideas just appear in our heads?  From whence do they come? And… oh God… what if they stop?!?

To combat this one… I’ve got nothing. I don’t believe any supernatural woo-woo is giving me ideas, but neither do I know any scientific process. What if there is one super-tired neuron in my brain that mutated so badly it puts out weird signals that the rest of the brain can barely understand?  What if that neuron has only two minutes left before it burns out?  Other than meaning I better wrap up this post quickly, there is nothing I can do about it.  I face my bouts of writer’s block or stuckness when they came, but just keep plowing along and hoping that neuron is eating right and getting plenty of rest.

Keep at it

In the end, coming up with good ideas is a process.  Sometimes you have to build them from scraps, sometimes you need others’ help, and sometimes you just plow through. You just have to keep at it, and don’t let your fears get in your way.

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Keeping the juices flowing with word exercises

All the members of my writing group are working on different projects and topics, with many different speeds and styles.  We’re very different writers, but all share the common affliction of sometimes just having the creative well run dry.  To combat that we started choosing a random word for each session for everyone to work on.

The general goal is to write a single page on whatever the word sparks in you. We may use the word directly, or just be a spark to send us off in an odd direction. It can be a narrative, a scene, a character sketch, or even a poem.  Sometimes if we’re really feeling masochistic we’ll choose a genre to write in along with the word.  Try writing a “tragic romance” about “waffles” sometime.

It has been a great success for our group.  You don’t have to write a word each week, but if you’re not making progress on your main writing project then it is a good fallback to keep the words flowing.  I’ve also had a number of the single-pagers turn into larger stories later, and one ended up turning into one of my screenplays.

Starting this week we’ll be posting our creative writing under the category of “Word Exercises” and tag it with the word from that.  The first ones will be up this weekend, and then around every two weeks after that.  We welcome any feedback or input on the pieces and hope you enjoy them.