Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Very Idea!


We get asked that.
A lot.
"Where do you get you ideas?"

Most writers have more ideas than they can shake a keyboard at.
Ideas litter their minds like leaves after a wind storm.
In the rich manure of a writer's fertile brain, ideas germinate like weeds.
More ideas than kids at a carnival.
And so on.

One prompt and fifteen scenarios flit through the average writer brain like bats at sundown.
The problem is never ideas. Not really.

It's choice.
Which idea suits best the particular style, the voice, the underlying world view, the message, the experience, the quirk?
Which idea can be turned, tweaked, expanded, explored, stretched and stirred?
Not what, but which idea is best, essential, fitting, can be made unique.
I wonder if many cases of the dread writer's block stems from this crossroads conundrum.
Vacillation.
Hesitation.
Uncertainty.
Indecision.

That's my idea for the day.

27 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

"In the rich manure of a writer's fertile brain, ideas germinate like weeds."

"Weeds" is the operative word for my mind's ideas. "manure" is appropriate too.

But, I usually select the one(s) that have filtered down to become strongest in my gut. The lesser of two evils.

Dennie McDonald said...

Yep, Yep and YEP!!!

Don't know what more to say that Yep - you are so right. I thought of writing a book just on story line possibilities - like a flip book with words - but then I'd be giving away all my trade secrets - and I don't like to share too much!

Jeff said...

You hit the nail on the head here, Bernita. Weeding out the many ideas that won't work and choosing the "right" one can be a daunting task. At least it is for me. :)

Jaye Wells said...

This is so true. I have many ideas that I love, but have to put them aside. Either I don't think I'm ready for them, or I know my voice can't do them justice.

And the word "choice" is so huge. Choices are writing's great benefit and pitfall. But it's so much more interesting than having everything laid out for you without all the guesswork. At least, that's what I tell myself.

Bernita said...

I think that's the way to choose, Erik - gut instinct.

Some secrets should be kept close, Dennie.

Me, too, Jeff. Do it eerie, sombre, humourous, tragic, dramatic?

Yes, Jaye, part of the fascination, the multiple possibilities.
I have this incident, this image that's waiting for the flint.

Flood said...

In my day job, I design clothes. After doing the math a million times, that first cut on fabric is still stressful. I worry if I am positively sure that I know where the project is going, cause I would hate to scrap it and start again.

I am like that with writing too. I have to completey throw caution to the wind or I sit there and worry about doing the wrong thing with a great idea. I am getting better, though

Ric said...

I have to agree with my Lady wholeheartedly. Too many ideas can come from a single event.

The girl at the service station, pumping gas at the next pump. She's in a hurry, drops her purse, chasing lipsticks as they roll under her car. Her uniform says she might be a waitress - is she on her way to work? worried she's late and going to be fired because this is the fourth time this week?

Or on her way home - wondering if her boyfriend will be mad she's late - maybe rough her up a bit? Or the new sitter she hired just because she could save a couple bucks a week - did the kids like her - or was she just as ditsy to them as she seemed this morning?

Or maybe she lives at home, anxious to get there before her father who lectures every day about how she could have made something of herself like her sisters? - gone to college, he would have paid, but, no, she was too independent, too good to take his money and now look at her, not making enough to even drive a decent car.

Yes, Bernita, I see the problem. And I haven't even turned around to see the OTHER 6 pumps yet.

Bernita said...

Measure twice, saw once.
Not the only occupation to have that wisdom.
But I know what you mean, Flood.
Fortunately in writing, one can always re-do the treatment if it doesn't come off - if we can get over the idea we'll be zotted if we don't get it right the first time.

Ric, you're a gentle and parfait knyght.
That's a perfect illustration of the problem.

jason evans said...

So true.

Blogging has been a wonderful outlet for me. I love being able to share scores of little snippets. Anything that strikes me. No other kind of publishing format gives such vast opportunities.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I can totally identify with what Flood said, but long years ago I picked up the carpenter mantra that Bernita repeated..."Measure twice, cut once"!

With ideas, I have a million, but then I get to thinking...how can I make this fresh and new...then I get lost in adding a new demention..(not a misspelling...going for the demented twist, LOL)

And the whole thing winds up being a procrastination!


Woops! There it is!

Bernita said...

It's a pleasure for us to read them, Jason and it IS a solution to the which problem.

Exactly it, Bonnie.
Dither is our danger.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Boy, did you ever peg this, Bernita. Too many ideas. Like poor Leonard da Quirm, being pelted with millions of inspiration particles all the time, waking up in a sweat with our sheets covered in doodles and notes...

Er. Yeah. Doesn't everybody do that? *cough*

Lucky me, my idea factory works overtime on everything in my life. I can't tell you how many "brilliant" plans I've concocted for starting a business, cleaning the house, being more efficient, and most importantly eliminating the need for sleep so I can do all the things I think of.

Sadly, most of them are not so brilliant as I suspect when I first conceive of them...

Bernita said...

Why, yes, SW...
"waking up in a sweat with our sheets covered with doodles and notes..." I certainly had the impression everyone does that, I hope. Else I'm strange...and waking up when the pile of books crashes off the bed...

kmfrontain said...

Oh. Too many ideas. Actually I'm glad I have new ones, because a while back, I worried I only had one. One story to tell, even if it was long.

Plot and ideas--since I only ever do the smallest plot outline in my head, I never worry about it while I write. I just go, starting line, hopefully to finish line. Sometimes the finish line walks away and I have to chase after it. My biggest danger is writer's stall (not writer's block). I just stall. Go brain tired and stop.

For The Trees said...

I've always trusted Divine Providence to hand me the best line/idea to start with. And when I get that first flash, I know it's my intuition or psychic sense telling me what to work on. So I'll go with it.

Then again, most of that's a backlash against all the old manic-phase hyperactivity when I've have 42,000 ideas all at once about what to write about. And get nothing done because of overwhelm.

So I go with the first one. Cuts down on the writer's block. Gets me going a lot faster.

Bhaswati said...

I am afraid, I am one of those dimwits who faces a shortage of ideas more often than not.

But I agree with Jason. Blogging is such a great outlet to just release idea specks that happen to float through a moment. I am much less picky or conscious as a blogger than I am as a fiction writer.

Bernita said...

Whatever you do, KM, it's well done.

Yes, Forrest, that surety of mind that this, this one, is the idea to pursue, is a great gift.

Cynthia Bronco said...

When asked this question, Stephen King answered, "Utica."

Bernita said...

No, no, Bhaswati, certainly not a "dimwit."
No, no, NO. A more disciplined and selective mind, perhaps. Plethora is not necessarily a good thing.
But blogging is wonderful, as you both say, to give form and substances to those thoughts that flit like sparks above the bonfire in the night.

Bernita said...

Obviously a most fertile location, Cynthia.

Gabriele C. said...

Plotbunny breeding farms. Right there in my backyard.

I feed them history books.

kmfrontain said...

History books, perfect plot bunny food, Gabriele. :D

And thanks, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Gabriele, history books CREATE plot bunnie farms, total rabbit warrens.
It's a vicious circle.

Jen said...

I know this is true for me. I have a lot of great ideas. Some of them are worn out, tired, done a million times, not marketable, too specific yada yada yada. I think you're absolutely right. I get stuck when I face a crossroads in the character's story. "Which way. Which way. Do I go this way? Or that way?" It's fuzzy and unclear.
Great blog, Bernita.

bookfraud said...

too many ideas, too little time -- our wonderful dilemma. what is depressing is that we have no real distance between ourselves and the ideas, so we don't know if they're great or awful; some things i thought were positively brilliant turned out to be stinkers, and conversely. but don't let your surfeit of ideas get in the way. the thing about choice is that you can always change your mind.

Candice Gilmer said...

Ideas are too fruitful, they're everywhere, all around the idle recesses of the mind, flickering, glimmering and winking at the brain, just waiting for their chance to jump to center stage and sing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jen.
All ideas have been done a million times - but not by us. We have to hope our hand-drawn map isn't an exact copy and that nice path isn't a dead end.

True, Bookfraud, but I HATE backtracking, she whined.

Yes, Candice, but watch it with the stage analogy - or you'll have Ric dreaming of long-legged chorus girls...