Thursday, March 24, 2011

inspiration confetti

i've mentioned before that shiny new ideas often come to me when i'm in the thick of another project. it's my brain's escape mechanism, i think, when i'm tired of revising or when i hit a dry patch in a first draft.
the ideas often lose their luster once i actually have time to write them. i've learned to ignore those light bulbs that pop on and only focus on them when they refuse to go out. i write the ideas that stick with me.

so it occurred to me recently that this doesn't just happen when i'm working on a project. new ideas happen ALL THE TIME... for all of us writers, i'm sure. for every idea that takes root in our mind and eventually becomes a story, there must be dozens - hundreds, even - that we toss aside.

this morning, for example.
the google header today is celebrating Houdini.
hey! what if there was a modern Houdini? a teenage girl? But instead of getting out of tricky boxes and straight jackets, she was an expert at getting out of trouble? Until one day she finds herself in a pickle she can't escape?
then i thought - "what's the pickle? eh, i don't know. i should be revising my WIP."

there was a spark of an idea, but it didn't take hold. it's now like a little scrap of paper in the trash bin of my brain. it could get plucked out, but it will probably just join the pile of hundreds of other scraps - all of those ideas i don't even bother to write down - one big pile of inspiration confetti.

on vacation, standing at the edge of the ocean while the post-tsunami waves pulled away from the beach a little too far and a little too fast, several bits of water-logged prose popped into my head. but i didn't write any of them down or transcribe them into my voice recorder, because none of them blossomed into plot or characters. add those scraps of prose to the pile.

when people talk about writing discipline, we often mean forcing ourselves to sit down and write. but i think it also takes discipline to filter through the ideas and inspiration to determine which ones HAVE TO BE WRITTEN NOW, which ones will have to wait and which ones are just confetti.

what about you? do you jot down every single idea or snatch of dialog that pops into your head? how do you filter the noise of ideas to focus on just one or just a few stories?


Kristine Asselin said...

If I wrote things down AT ALL I'd have tons of ideas. The problem is I don't. And then I can't remember the genius. :)

Bethany Robison said...

I'm a night person, so I get most of my ideas when I'm laying in bed, trying to fall asleep. I keep a notebook by my bed - jotting down keywords, names, etc, helps empty my head. I rarely do anything with them, at least at this stage - but they might creep back up again someday. I like your concept of "confetti" - that's the perfect word for it.

Miriam S. Forster said...

I don't write them down, I've usually found that if an idea disappears, it either wasn't that good to begin with, or it will come back better and stronger.

Mostly I just let the ideas wash around me like water and get back to what I was doing. They'll be back... :)

Kelly said...

I have a notebook full of my gibberish. If I don't have my trusty notebook with me when inspiration hits, I use the notes function on my iPhone. I just can't let anything slip by me ;0)

E.J. Wesley said...

You know, I've never heard a better explanation for the 'rabbit chasing' we do when a new idea crops up. It's TOTALLY an escape mechanism!

That's probably why I started writing in the first place. (Bored with my 'real' work.) So when my current project gets a tad tedious is it any wonder that I start having fits of inspiration?

Seriously brilliant observation, EJ.

erinjade said...

i love how we all have different processes, even when it comes to dealing with new ideas.

and thanks so much, EJ! what a compliment. :)

Melanie said...

Great post!

I jot the ideas that I can totally follow through on. Often I'll get an inspiring idea and as I try to work it out in my head, it sort of just loses itself. Kind of like when you suddenly remember a tiny snip of dream you had and know that it was so deep in your conscious that it's the reason you didn't wake up thinking about it and the more you try to remember the dream, the fast it disappears. So those ideas are fleeting, but the ones that stick, that I can start fully plotting in my head or write the back of the book blurb for go in the notebook. I guess my sticking ideas are more like balloons. Sometimes I just get one and the wind comes and I lose my girp on it and watch it float into the sky. Other times I'm actually able to hold onto it and tie it to my wrist :-)

Melanie said...

btw, i'm not a new follower, i'm a re-follower. blogspot got mad at me for disappearing from the blogging world and kicked me off everyone's blog. :-(

erinjade said...

Melanie, i think you should jot down that comment! nice writing in there. :D

i agree about the ideas that stick. sometimes they're not even the best ideas that pop into my head, but the ones that stick are the only ones *I* can write. and ditto about the "back of the book" blurb. if you can write that in your head, that's a good measure of how developed an idea is. nice example.