More thinking about thinking.
Ack! Sorry, I’ve missed the last few Wednesdays. My birthday was in there, as was an out-of-town visit and one week of sickness.
But I’m better now (and older), so back to our regularly scheduled blog!
One of the questions I’m asked most often is, where do you get your ideas?
And honestly, I still don’t have a good answer. I’m sure it’s a combination of life experiences, plus things I’ve read, seen, heard, etc. and a flash of something other that binds them all together in some new way.
All I know for sure is that I love it when new ideas whisper in my ear. And yes, that’s usually the way it happens. Someone new appears on scene to tell me some little snippet about themselves or their situation.
The hardest part for me always is figuring out WHICH idea to pursue. Some of these have been hanging around, waiting in the wings, for literally years. Something about them calls to me, or else they wouldn’t still be in the idea file. (I have both paper and electronic files labled “Ideas.”)
I found this in an article on CNN today, which I found interesting:
“In an interview with Betsy Morris of Fortune, Steve Jobs offered an interesting and, typically, upside-down perspective on focus: ‘People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.'”
Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the concept of finding the “right” idea. I think I’ve always thought that some story ideas are more complete, more functional than others. Or, that others are flawed from the get-go, despite their many appealing qualities, and no matter how much work or time or effort you put into them, they are doomed from the start.
It makes me anxious to think like that because then it feels a bit like gambling when you have to choose what next to work on. You have to bet on the right horse, or you’ll end up broke (i.e. 150 pages in and no story, or worse, a story you hate.)
And that may be partially true…some ideas may be more complete than others from the beginning. But better? I don’t know. Mind you, I’m not talking about their sale-ability or their potential for bestseller-dom, merely an idea’s potential for becoming a complete and functional story.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if it’s less about the idea and more about me. The theory that some ideas are “better” than others seems kind of flawed (aside from obvious technique issues or marketing/sales impracticalities–like a love story with zombies or something, but I bet someone will find a way to make even that work).
I’ve read so many books that took delightfully unusual concepts–ones that people would say, “Oh, that’ll never work,” and executed them brilliantly. Others that have taken tried-and-true stories and flipped them upside down in some way for a fresh perspective.
I’m beginning to wonder if the x-factor is author interest/commitment. For me, some ideas require more development to turn them from a little kernel into a full blown…uh, whatever a kernel becomes. Ear of corn? Popcorn? 🙂
And sometimes in that development process, I get wishy-washy. I like these people, but if I don’t know their story, I’m floundering. Sometimes, to make them part of a story, I have to change things about them or their situation. And then…all of a sudden the developing story isn’t as interesting to me as the kernel was. Or maybe there are too many choices and the process of figuring it out suddenly seems overwhelming and not fun.
Fun. I seriously do think that’s the key. I write because I love it, because it’s fun for me. Not all the time, not every day, and it’s a LOT of hard work, but there are certainly more good days than bad. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. Nobody would.
And I have to know enough about the characters and where the story is going to be able to relax enough to have fun.
So maybe that’s the litmus test I’ve been looking for. Not is this the “right” idea…but will it be fun? Am I excited about seeing these scenes play out on paper? Do I know enough about this story that I’ll enjoy seeing it come to life? Or is it more of a vague notion than an idea?
Hmmm. It’s something worth thinking about, at least. 🙂
—Liar by Justine Larbalestier is fascinating and unsettling. I highly recommend it, but you should come to it with no expectations (or spoilers). Seriously. I finished it two days ago and I’m STILL thinking about it.
–I CANNOT wait for “V” to start next week! November 3 on ABC, people!
–I am SO enjoying my Kindle, which I got for my birthday. I’ll be writing up my experiences about it probably for next week. I have the most fun downloading the free samples to my Kindle and reading them on the couch. It is DANGEROUS, you guys, how easy it is to buy books this way. 🙂