Stop Idea Addiction
Mur Lafferty writes about some “Live Strong”-type bracelets that she had made that bear a motto that she thinks is important for writers to keep in mind: “Fighting Idea Addiction.” As she explains:
It was an unsubtle nod to the problems novice writers (including myself) of having so many awesome ideas, you are afraid of your admittedly amateur mind not doing them justice. With that I remind you of several of my rules:
- Ideas are cheap: The more ideas you have, the more ideas will come. I once did an idea-a-day blog, brainstorming every day to give people ideas because I was tired of people hoarding them like diamonds. They’re not precious gems; they’re seeds. Alone, they’re nothing except for bagel toppings, but plant them and nurture them and you’ve got something awesome. I mean, how many incredibly popular (note I didn’t say “good”) stories have come from “young woman – likely powerful in her own right – falls for vampire hundreds of years older than her?” Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sookie Stackhouse stories, and Sunshine (which is the best of them all, and highly recommended) all leap to mind. The idea was not the key to these stories, the execution was.
- You are allowed to suck: If you don’t write your “best” ideas now, what are you going to write in order to get better? If you were an artist, would you try to paint the best thing you could, or would you focus on “happy little trees” until you felt you were good enough for your ideas? Allow yourself to suck, even when writing your great ideas. More will always come and make you feel like your “great” idea now was simplistic.
If you don’t allow yourself to accept that ideas are worth the paper you write them on, and don’t allow yourself to suck while executing them, then you will never progress as a writer. Stop idea addiction.
I had a real shock of recognition reading this, and I guess I didn’t really know that other writers felt this way sometimes, too. I can think of a couple of ideas for novels that I thought of years ago that I didn’t tackle for that very reason.
I’d add another reason to her list — you’ve got to follow your passion. Those ideas I just mentioned? They’re still good ideas, and if I wrote them now, then yes, they might end up being stylistically more polished than they would have if I’d written them years ago. But I’m not as in love with those ideas as I was at the time, and maybe if I’d written them when those ideas were still fresh and new in my head, then that level of love and enthusiasm would have made the stories sing in a way they wouldn’t, now. Don’t hold onto your ideas until they dry up.