An idea comes to you, one that you love. Maybe you hear a character speaking to you, or you conjure a scenic location. Other times you imagine a situation, a sticky set of circumstances your character finds him or herself in. You know your idea will make excellent story fodder. You start writing only to find your idea shrivels, warps, or otherwise diminishes despite your best efforts to keep it alive and breathing.
What happened? Your idea was perfect. Somewhere along the way, it went wrong. You begin to despair. You might even consider throwing away the idea. It must not have been a very good one, you say to yourself.
Don’t. Go. There.
I am here to tell you that if you love your idea, it is not lost. Ever.
If you can talk (even to yourself) about why your story idea is cool, you can write it, I promise. The devil is in the disconnect between your brain and the paper. Talking about something is a whole lot easier than writing about it most of the time, isn’t it? That’s because we talk much more than we write. If we wrote as much as we talked, how much easier would the writing come?
All writing is translation work.
Ideas arise from our subconscious, and we aren’t used to putting the work of our subconscious into words. It’s a function of our minds we take for granted most of the time, the backdrop to the more discursive thinking we engage in during waking hours. Reason, logic, the passing details of life – these are what our brains focus on. The work of our intuition is largely drowned out, or even worse, invalidated by ourselves or others.
Translating the work of our intuition into words feels difficult, if not foreign, at first. Just as we wouldn’t expect to understand a new language the moment we set foot inside a foreign country, we can’t expect the first expression of our idea on paper to be perfect.
Drafts will lead us closer to the finished product, but even then, we might feel our work doesn’t do our idea justice. This is where the old adage “practice makes perfect” comes in. I didn’t say it up front because it’s something none of us likes to hear.
Yet the practice of writing is exactly what will allow you to narrow the gap between the lively, colorful idea you visualize in your mind and how well you are able to express your inspiration on paper.
Allow me to enumerate the following wonderful benefits of committing to your writing on a regular basis:
- Quiets the Censor. We are all familiar with the Censor, that nagging voice within that tells us our writing is rubbish and we’re wasting our time. One of the many benefits of engaging in any creative activity is that it alters the frequency of our brainwaves to a deeper, more meditative state. With this change in state comes an enhanced ability to focus, innovate, and reach “flow.” As a manifestation of the rational mind, the Censor can’t compete with the power of our subconscious, and he shuts up.
- Builds confidence. The more I write, the more I realize how much I am capable of writing. I don’t throw away ideas anymore, I make note of them. Often, these snippets or impressions will work their way into a future story, or provide a springboard for future brainstorming.
- Takes less time to immerse. I still have days when I stare at the page for an hour or two until I re-orient myself with my current work-in-progress, particularly if I have been away from it for a few days. That being said, I’ve largely replaced the irrational fear that my unwritten story will vanish into thin air with the practiced knowledge that it is always waiting for me behind the page whenever I next sit down to work on it. My subconscious is always at work and never takes a day off.
- Becomes a healthy addiction. A funny thing happens when you get into the habit of writing regularly. You begin to miss the page terribly. Flow state is addictive because it is so regenerative. You will crave the sensation of it, over and over. It is life-giving and life-sustaining to your spirit. Who wouldn’t be drawn to this kind of work when this is the payoff? In the words of Robert Hass, “The only tolerable state is having just written.”
- Allows you to take on new challenges. Watching yourself grow and develop over time is exhilarating. The more you commit to mastering the craft of writing, accepting the critique of your mentors and peers, and applying what you learn to your projects, the closer you will come to finding your voice on the page. Knowing what is possible opens your mind to new ways of expressing yourself, be it writing poetry, short fiction, or novels.
I hope I have inspired you to listen deeply to the voice within, the one feeding you ideas and inspiration that you long to express in written words. No idea is too small or insignificant if it is speaking to your heart. Trust in the power of your intuition and work to being your idea to fruition, one word at a time, no matter how long it takes or how hard the process may seem.
Need some encouragement or a friendly shoulder to cry on? Drop me a line if you’d like to chat. I’d love to hear about whatever idea you’re working on, whether it’s giving you trouble or not.
Above all, keep writing. The world needs to hear your voice.