Some quick notes for this Wednesday morning – while Mesh makes the rounds with lit agents, I’m starting work on a new novel. This includes story mapping to help me figure out where and when everything will happen. I will admit, right now I’m not happy with what I have so far. That’s okay. One author idea I’ve learned over time: to make a story work, you have to get it out of your head.
I didn’t follow that advice at first. Ideas are like seedlings, I thought. They need to germinate, grow in a safe place, before coming out to the world to blossom in the sunlight. Horsefeathers. One thing you should know about any idea, story or otherwise, is that your brain is a great place for them to be born, but a terrible place to grow. When you leave an idea stuck in your head, it quickly starts to fester as all of your neurological systems come into play. Yes, imagination and insight are cool but they’re also hard work!
Here’s what’s going on inside your head. Ideas start out great, but as we flesh them out we need critical thought to make judgements on how to make that idea work. For that, we need critical thought – guess what we’re low on when we’re creative? 😉 From a neurological standpoint, ‘creativity is reflected in the brain as increased lateralization, as a reduction in critical thinking and long-term memory and as heightened emotionality.’ We’re really bad at judging whether an idea is good or bad while we’re being creative.
When you write your ideas down, you get it out of your head. You also do something else – you feed your subconscious! By translating the idea into a memory, you give your unconscious brain some fuel for it’s next session of creativity. It might happen when you’re out for a walk, asleep, or in the shower. A word of caution: this process is going to feel very counterintuitive at first. As you shift from creative to critical, different parts of your brain are going to conflict with each other. The warm fuzzies of the creative brain are going to feel diluted by the critical brain going “yeah, how is THAT going to work?”
Because of that discomfort, many people keep their ideas inside their head. It’s fun to think you have an amazing creative idea! Not so fun when you realize that even if you can find an investor for your purple unicorn dishwashing service, your target market are a bunch of people who don’t wash dishes anyway. But here is where we have to ask ourselves an important question as creative professionals:
Are we in love with our idea, or are we in love with the idea of our idea?
You’ll never know until you get it out of your head.
Are we in love with our idea, or are we in love with the idea of our idea? We’ll never know until we get it out of our head. Some people are in love with the idea of having ideas. You know them. ‘Serial entrepreneurs’ on Facebook. People in MLM schemes, crypto, NFTs. They post Robert Kiyosaki and Tony Robbins quotes all over social media as ‘influencers,’ never figuring out that those hucksters are only good at influencing people to pay hundreds or thousands on their seminars.
We’re not those people, are we? We’re committed to making our dreams live and breathe, which means we have to be there as those ideas crawl, walk, and run. None of that is easy, sexy, or instantaneous. Like babies, sometimes they spit up, break your TV, or skin a knee. Nurturing a real idea is rewarding, but make no mistake: It’s work.
The first step of that good idea? I target authors with this, but it applies to any creative person: get that idea out of your head! Get it onto paper, a whiteboard, or a Google slide. Look at it. Realize it’s terrible. Walk away for a while and let your subconscious chew on it. You must have faith in your idea, the creative process, and yourself to let this happen. If you do, when you do, you’ll experience some transcendent results.
As authors, as creative professionals, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to get our ideas onto the page and into the hands of our readers. If you remember nothing else, let it be this: when it comes to author ideas – get it out of your head! Have a great Wednesday!