Dear Writer: When Ideas Become Barriers To Telling Stories


"Every novel should have a beginning, a middle, and an end." ~ Peter De Vries

Picture a writer sitting at a desk, hunched over the keyboard, staring forlornly at the screen, with the blinking cursor flashing at a steady rhythm bordering on hypnotic. There are no reassuring taps of the keys, just the groaning silence of that moment. That writer is feeling all sorts of emotions from desperation, to aggravation, boredom, and so on. That writer may have a whole host of ideas brimming in his mind, but not a one of them has made a strong enough impression to get you moving.

Some early writers groan about not having enough ideas for the books and stories they hope to write. They make excuses about how they just can't find one. They make a show of researching--in other words, reading, browsing the web, or resting the laurels on the couch in front of the television. Later on, with a good body of work under the belt, a new issue might arise from time to time: you have too many ideas flowing at once and they start to overwhelm the mind and become blurred at the edges.

The writer doesn't know what she will do. Which idea is worth pursuing, which one has enough going for it to be viable past a few sentences? It can all just leave the head spinning and cause the poor writer to break out in a cold sweat.

Does it bear noting that ideas can be had in endless quantities but that the decision to pluck one of those fruits from the vine has more to do with one's ability to focus and follow through than anything inherent in the ideas themselves? Under such circumstances, the real point is that the writer must be able to make a decision and take a bit of a risk with a particular idea and just let the creative mind step up and take a hit.

Yet, a glut of ideas, can cause the writer to spin around and become hyper critical about all of those ideas to the point that none of them get the air needed to breath and bloom.

I realize that I may not be speaking to all writers when I talk about this. I know that nonfiction writers tackle ideas in almost a wholly different  manner than the fiction writer does. Still, it is true that not all writers are the same on how they do the job of storytelling. They have methods and plans they employ to get a story to take shape and help nurture and coax it towards a full-blown story or novel. Others, like this writer, just grab an idea and apply heat and pressure to forge a gem out of it.

Do I get bogged in the sea of ideas so that I can't always see the life preserver? Heck yes I do. But what do I do about--other than write this blog about the topic?

Maybe I sit staring at that cursor for a bit. Have a teenie weenie pity party for myself that lasts seconds. In the end, though, I am still a writer, which is somebody who writes. So I have to get on with it and forge a story by trusting in the creative mind, the seat of imagination and wonder.

And so do you, Dear Writer.

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