How Ideas Die on the Tongue

Just a short post today, but one with a very important message!

As writers we spend a lot of time thinking. Thinking about characters. Thinking about setting. Thinking about plot. But a lot of this early thinking will usually be focused on ideas. We think of something interesting and then we go about our daily lives, still thinking about and expanding on this initial idea.

Then, it will usually go one of three ways:

  1. The idea turns out to be a dead end. We abandon it and move on to the next interesting idea.
  2. The idea turns out to be really good. We incorporate it into our project or create a whole new project around this idea. It becomes something exciting. Exciting enough to write about.
  3. We think the idea is so great, so utterly ingenious, that we have to share it with someone. Against our better judgement, we corner a loved one or a friend and we flood their ears with our primordial, unspoken idea.

If we choose to go with option #3, we take a big risk. See, the funny thing about ideas is that they always feel more exciting, more brilliant, when they are in our heads. The moment we choose to give them shape with words, the idea becomes something tangible and, crucially, no longer private. Others are now free to judge the idea and even change the idea. Or, perhaps worse, they may not have any opinion on your idea and they will have no interest in discussing it with you.

The beauty of a writer’s mind is that it contains all the details and connections related to whatever story they are privately brewing. Other people don’t have that information. They are not inside the writer’s mind and the way they think about things could be completely different to the writer.

So, the message here, the advice, even, is keep the best ideas to yourself. Like a baby, a story needs time to gestate, and it does that best in a dark, private place – a.k.a. your mind.

One thought on “How Ideas Die on the Tongue

  1. Aethereal Engineer 23-Jan-2015 / 14:16

    You speak the absolute truth. Learning to keep my mouth shut about plot and specifics until I write and share them has been a huge step for me as a writer. Once I started keeping secrets, I started really writing.

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