A few thoughts on ideas.

Idea Light BulbsSo, I’m reading Amanda Hocking’s blog and I come across this really great post called Ideas vs. Things which you should all go read. Now, Amanda is one of my absolute favourite people. I really respect someone who is doing so well in the world, doing what they love and without stepping on anyone else to do it. I don’t keep up with her blog as much as I should because I’m terrible at keeping up with anybody’s blog for any length of time, but I never fail to find her charming, hilarious and so brilliantly normal.

Anyways, this particular post is all about (you guessed it) Ideas vs Things, and how in the past she made the mistake of sharing her undeveloped ideas a little too early. If those undeveloped ideas never came to anything, that would lead to disappointments and so she’s had to become more careful about what she announces.

It’s a great little post and it got me thinking about the undeveloped ideas that we leave behind. You see, I have never been a note keeper. I don’t sleep with a notebook by the bed and the amount of times I’ve told myself that I’ll remember an idea later and failed is enormous. But I still hold on to a lot of ideas that come and go over the years. For NaNoWriMo I’m going to write a novel that I’ve been thinking of for about three years now, my Timewasters stories were kicking about the back of my brain for months before I finally sat down and wrote one. Ideas aren’t always perfect starting points, sometimes they’re like seeds that need to be planted in the soil and forgotten about for a bit. The best ones will germinate and then you can tend to them.

Over the years I might have forgotten some really good ideas; I don’t know, I can’t remember. But there are plenty of ideas that nibble away at me when I’m working, the projects that I know some day I’ll sit down with a really hammer out until they go some where. If Amanda Hocking’s weakness is in announcing them too early, my problem seems to be in committing to them before they’re ready. I like my work so far, and I intend to continue it, but I will often embark on a writing project only to find that it’s not nearly so complete as I thought and that I’d much rather be working on something simpler.

I can’t say I have many wasted ideas though. I don’t spend much time daydreaming on future books, instead I prefer to build an idea when I begin a project. I don’t really suffer from writers’ block. I don’t believe in the muse, and I don’t see one’s ability to write as being ethereal or based on whim. I prefer to take a pragmatic approach to writing, laying out the story I want to tell and the way I want to tell it, and then get to work. That is not to say that I don’t believe in the spark of character that makes the best writing come alive.  I certainly wouldn’t claim to possess it, but I know that my best, most creative work comes, not while I’m developing the plot, but when I’m mid-sentence with my fingers hammering the keys and there’s 500 words to write in five minutes. What little gems of literature I do produce are small and dirty, but can be shined up later in revision.

The problem with ideas is that they are fluid things. Everyone creates them differently, and the circumstances of their creation can radically change their power. Worst of all, they seem so much more valuable when they are fresh. You want to share them with the world right then because you see them at their best, in all their potential and they seem so easy to bring into the world. Unfortunately, it never quite pans out like that.