Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I don't have a back-store of ideas for my writing. Rarely do I seem to be struck by an idea so powerful that it makes me stop in wonder at the power of my brain - actually I've never wondered at the power of my brain, it's always quite the opposite (maybe I'm more like Pinky than Brain...).

But I digress.

I read a lot of blogs and I've trawled around cyberspace for a couple of years now getting a feel for what it takes to be a writer, and I've come to the startling conclusion that the journey is different for each and every one of us who puts words on a page.

And that's the way it should be.

Many, indeed, most writers will advise you to keep a notebook on hand to scribble down an idea you can later turn into the next big thing, or at least the next story for you to work on - it can work. Me, I find that an idea looked at in the cold harsh light of day, without that original flame of inspiration providing a backlight, seems to wither and die before my eyes. Too many seemingly good ideas at the time have gone the way of the dodo in my experience to warrant me keeping much in the way of a notebook.

I do have an ideas file, but I don't put story ideas into it. I put in the little spark which prompted the story idea. Sometimes, often actually, I go back when looking for a new story to write, and wonder what the hell was I thinking. At these times I accept the idea mustn't have been all that good to begin with, delete it and move on. Sometimes it gives me a new idea and so I write a new story. I don't think it matters - it works for me...most of the time.

Sometimes I have a semi-formed, or on rarer occasions, a fully-formed, idea and I outline it in my ideas file. I come back later and still often think WTF, but these types of ideas are easily massaged into something I can get excited about and move forward with.

The bottom line here, and the reason for this post in the first place, is that it's okay to not have a plethora of ideas on the back burner if you're a writer - it's okay if you do, but it's not a prerequisite. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable and if you get to the point where you're worrying over not being like other writers out there, then I can't see how anyone can wring enjoyment from the process.

Be different. Be the best writer you can be and ensure you still gain maximum enjoyment from the craft we all love..

Find your own way, adapt what others have done before you and make it work for you. Write every day or once a week or only when the mood is right and the wind is blowing from the north. Outline every story or just start and see where you finish. Act out your characters, read out loud your dialogue, have critique partners read your work from the first draft or only after completion of the revised second or third instalments - whatever works for you.

And don't beat yourself up about anything. You are learning the craft and writing. You are spending some hours investing in improving yourself as a person, indulging in a need you must have fulfilled. You are not feeding the children in Africa or solving world peace. In the end, you're a story teller, which, with practise, can make a difference in a different way, and if you're commercially successful enough, may allow you to contribute funding to find the cure for AIDS, but in the end you are still just a story teller.

And that's a great thing to be.


  1. I always love hearing how other writer's tick : ) Our differences are endlessly intriguing!

  2. My ideas files tend to be full of images and situations rather than fully formed plots and if they're good enough, the bug me to the point that I have to write it.

    Those are the best ideas for me.

  3. I think you expressed that perfectly...

  4. You've described the journey I'm now on and the conclusions that I'm coming to find. For a while, all the different 'rules' were confusing me. Now I see that I just need to go back to what I originally was doing, which is write without worrying about how the experts might view my technique.

  5. Excellent advice. I'm always amazed at how things that work for other writers would absolutely kill my spark, and vice versa. I tend to keep my ideas bouncing around in my head until I'm ready to start writing/outlining. I know that wouldn't work for many writers, but it seems to help me. Ideas meet and merge, separate into more than one idea, morph into other things, and ripen on the vine, so to speak.

  6. Laura - that's what I try to do. If I see or hear something that I think other writers should know about, I post it hear and then they no longer have to worry about whether they are normal or doing it right. It's my small way of giving back but I figure as I continue on my journey, I'll have more to give the further I proceed - and in the end, everyone should benefit.

    KC - I keep things in my head and they leak out after a very short time. I'm definitely a writer in the now. Sometimes I envy writers like you or like Barry, but in the end, it wouldn't work for me so there's no point in dwelling on it.

    The old saying of 'a head like a sieve' - that's me to a tee!