Friday, March 15, 2013

Protecting the Work

I like sharing ideas, when they aren’t mine. Brainstorming someone else’s story can be exhilarating. Talking about my just sprouted story seedlings? No.
Ideas are tender little plants. They have to be pampered and protected and nurtured if they’re going to ever set their first true leaves. Once they do that, the ideas can begin self-supporting. They have a chance, at that point, to grow into whatever they want to be. But they still have to be sheltered from the harsh wind of premature and possibly hostile questions.
I think it’s Maggie Lawson who talks about plotting her stories on long drives with her husband. She bounces her ideas off of him. The more he insists she cannot possibly do what she’s proposing to do, the more she knows she’s headed in the right direction with her story.
She’s stronger than I. Or maybe she grows a particularly hardy variety of ideas.
For me, talking about ideas too soon deforms them. If that happens, they never have the opportunity to mature and bear fruit. My files overflow with ideas cut off at the soil because I unwisely exposed them too soon or I exposed them to the wrong people. By ‘wrong’, I mean I spoke of ideas to people who operate from a strictly logical base, and who insist that my still developing ideas must make sense (their definition of ‘sense’ as opposed to mine) and they must do so now. Even speaking too soon of ideas to other creative people, even my excellent critique partners, alters the natural growth pattern.
If we talk about ideas being brought from the world of ideals into manifest being in this world, then I know that I need to pay pretty strict attention to whatever clever story notion is poking up its head within my brain. Talking about that idea rather than acting on that it diffuses my focus and I lose tiny but valuable pieces.
I can usually begin talking about an idea once I’ve done a proof of concept – I’ve done three chapters and a rough synopsis if it’s a novel, or I’ve written the story if it’s a short. At that point, not only is the idea strong enough to survive whatever comes, so am I.


  1. "I can usually begin talking about an idea once I’ve done a proof of concept – I’ve done three chapters and a rough synopsis if it’s a novel..."

    I like your idea of "proof of concept" including the rough synopsis. It shows the idea is further along than "she's a girl with a glitchy personality."

    1. Oh, heaven knows I have plenty of one liner ideas - some just one or two words...but they have to become more than that before I set them before others. If I don't, the one liner/one word things never, ever become anything more. I've always wondered why that is.