Nov. 19 – What happens to ideas


© Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I have always loved watching artists start a new picture on a blank canvas – one moment a scattering of random lines and the next moment a recognizable image.  It’s magic and never ceases to fascinate me.

The equivalent process for writers, from that first seedling of an idea through the accretion of exactly the right details, the right settings and characterizations, is invisible and thus, to me at least, beyond magic and on to miraculous.  In the past few days I have gotten two unrelated and yet very similar glimpses into that miraculous world.

I like to read the news on imdb (Internet Movie Database) and came across an article entitled “How J.J. Abrams Pitched ‘Revolution.'” I never learned how that pitch went, but the article started with this sentence: “It started with two men sword fighting in front of a Starbucks.”  The writer-producer Eric Kripke was the imaginer of that scene, and he had no idea who the men were or why they were using swords.  The article went on to state that his previous series, Supernatural, was inspired by a “similarly random mental snapshot – ‘a girl on the ceiling on fire.'”

How in the world, I wondered to myself, could anyone know how to move from that random mental snapshot (I love that phrase) to a full-blown TV series, running for years due to the depth of its created universe?  I stand in awe.

And then, thanks to Rick Mallery‘s generosity in visiting and following bloggers like me, I was able to read his story about writing his first novel, in which I found an unexpected glimpse into that process.  He described settling in to a comfy chair with a new notebook and pen.  Everything he had learned about writing fiction disappeared, distilled into a wonderfully concise direction: “Just start with a character who has a problem, and then make everything worse until it finally gets better.”  He goes on to describe the first few lines he wrote and how he moved incrementally into the story.

This was so helpful to read, I think because I held an unspoken conviction that if it doesn’t happen like the blinding vision of JK Rowling, where the vastness of the story and the world appears all of a piece, it isn’t real and it isn’t true.  Now that I write that down I see how silly it sounds, but there it is.

Whenever I think about writing fiction I get utterly overwhelmed, having no idea how to “do it.”  I think I have a story that wants to be told, but I get lost in the vastness of my ignorance and overwhelmed at the many many many words that would need to be found.  But, thanks to Eric Kripke and Rick Mallery, I caught a glimpse of the possible: of being able to move from the random mental snapshot to a completed tale.  Thank you gentlemen, and good night.

photo by Tattooed JJ, made available by Creative Commons license

Write Every Day

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I am determined to keep this blog going once school starts again in a few weeks, but I am worried that the challenges of the upcoming semester will pull me away from writing.  To counteract the fall semester brain-spirit-energy drain, I have decided to commit to writing for fifteen minutes every day, starting … now.

Fifteen minutes isn’t long enough to get a multi-paragraph post written, with links and images, but it is enough to get an idea down that I can start to polish in tomorrow’s fifteen minutes.  If I spend at least fifteen minutes every day writing, I will get better at getting ideas out of my head and onto the page – an ongoing lesson for me.  The sub-text of this blog could be “Just do it!”

This idea of fifteen minutes of work reminds me of advice from one of my favorite creativity coaches – the artist SARK.  She advocates taking teeny tiny steps (“micro-movements“) to accomplish our creative goals – steps that take maybe five minutes but that move us closer to our dreams.  Make that call, write down that idea, make a list, ask a question.  Do it now.

Fifteen minutes.

Inspired by Richard Byrne’s “Best Tip for Beginning Bloggers” – write every day.

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Today’s Lesson: Dithering Revisited

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Sometimes the universe seems to feel the need to amplify my daily lesson.  Case in point: in my dithering about whether or not to start this blog, I consulted my scientist web-savvy brother about my confusion over hosting options, CSS, CMS, HTML, etc.  My efforts to be creative and design my own site were overwhelming me, and I couldn’t seem to find my way forward.

My brother, after patiently listening to me, went off and researched stand-alone blogging sites, then wrote with his recommendation and explanation why I should start there instead of trying to design my own site right away.  I resisted, wanting to be artsy and implement my entire vast vision, today.

Then I re-examined his message, and was struck with how potent it was:  “I strongly believe if you have no content and just an idea that you don’t have much. Sorry to be blunt. But I am full of ideas and I have learned that getting something on paper/on the internet is what makes the idea matter.”

Then I was at an art collage class last weekend and I was madly collecting images while everyone else had moved on to gluing and painting.  The instructor came over and nudged me to move on and actually get something on the page.  hmmm.  Second verse, same as the first.

So, to all of us who struggle, let’s get those ideas out of our heads and into the world!