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Ideas – Hone, Discard or Wait

ideas for writersA friend called and at the end of the call I asked her what I should blog about. She said something like “write about where ideas come from.”

I’ve blogged about where writers get their ideas and started to say “no.” But one of my recent practices has become, more or less, the admonition to my self: Don’t deflect ideas! Instead of saying no, I waited a tiny moment.

Sure enough, a new thought came in and I remembered that yesterday I started a rant about my bank and customer service. As I blew off steam I realized I didn’t want to put that kind of negativity out in the world.

Which led almost immediately to the notion of blogging about how I hone ideas. After I’d finished talking with my friend I began this blog and recognized that the first step in honing is deciding if the idea is worth a darn in the first place.

Talk about a subjective process!

My unfinished rant on banks and customer service isn’t a bad idea. There are at at least two possible posts or articles there, maybe more. But I didn’t want to write about that yesterday. My feeling that what I was writing was too negative reflects part of my personal belief systems. I mean there are people who make multi-million dollar paychecks on negativity – I don’t want to be one of them.

However, I often run into good customer service and my experience with credit unions has been quite positive, so I’ve left the draft where it is (WordPress allows keeping draft blogs) because I might want to write about the good things with either.

In other words yesterday’s draft has moved from discard to wait. I have a hunch it will eventually get thrown out. At least for this blog. Although customer service certainly has application to freelance writers. Hmmmm. In other words, part of yesterday’s work moves to wait.

Banks? Not so much.

Honing an idea, at least for me, isn’t exactly editing or rewriting. It’s getting clear on the purpose of the piece I’m working on.

The article on getting clear suggests that every writing project needs a purpose statement, and while I do believe that I don’t always write out those 10 words before something short like this post.  I used to and when I get stuck I will work with the purpose. But I’ve got enough experience – some 649 posts here plus several years worth at the old GoldenPencil and who knows how many when I was the Guide to Freelance Writing over at About.com. I’ve lost track of how many years I did that.;)

Once I’ve got my purpose, I know I can usually write to it which means the idea is good enough and clear enough to work with.

That’s roughly my process. What’s yours?


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Charlotte

    I don’t understand the title. What is disgard?

    • Anne

      arghhhh… classic typo in a headline… thanks

  • My theory is that the best ideas come from the subconscious. Thus there’s no conscious mechanism that will create them on demand. On the other hand, the subconscious works with what it finds in our heads and hearts. In other words, it may help to fill up our minds with new things. Have as many new experiences as you can. Read. Go places. Observe. Attend performances. Meet people. Find excuses to talk to strangers. Take courses. Explore a few new blogs or websites. Do a what-if as many times a day as you can. Even a bad experience can be turned into a creative moment.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

  • I love that line “Don’t deflect ideas” — it is officially my new mantra! Thanks, Anne!

    Some of my best writing has come from taking a passage that had to be cut from somewhere else and expanding it into its own thing. I also agree with Kathleen, reading other people’s stuff sometimes inspires me, especially if I think I can say it better, or differently, than they did. Sometimes even correcting student writing inspires me, because they either present or miss a connection that is a good jumping off point for a tangential piece.
    .-= Paula Swenson´s last blog ..A Gift of Time =-.

    • Anne

      Wish I could claim credit for “don’t deflect ideas.” I can’t.

      Re inspiration, seems to come in roughly the same proportion that I’m open to it.

  • kahtleen

    I take something that I see… or I am involved in … and write it; if I am not on assignment. Like when, this weekend, my father-in-law brought the subject up of ‘Missing riding horses’… which I do and it now seems he does too.
    I took the dialog from that conversation… added description and will expound upon the subject in a first person view. I have places to submit it.
    I read a lot, too. Which as I write this I feel like I am writing a cliché… but it is true… reading helps. Reading someone else’s work either makes me agree with it, or think ‘I could have written that better’ or ‘no, I think this other way on that’ and I write about it.
    Proofreading other folks’ work helps me to refocus on what I should be writing. Better writers encourage me to be more like them and lesser writer take me back to when I used to make the same mistakes.
    I offer my services to my church which is selfish on my part, because it keeps me from going within too much. They only have me write an article about the happenings at the church a couple of times a year, but I figure I can share my wordplay ability with others and I do whenever I get the chance. Paying it all forward and all, it’s been my motto since I can remember… okay, since adulthood, but still it is a way to keep my writing juices going.
    And when all else fails… I pull out a picture from a magazine and make up a story to go with it.

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