There’s an old story that a beginning writer once asked a veteran author how he kept coming up with writing ideas. The veteran grabbed the young man by the shoulders, shook him fervently, and said with a tone of desperation, “How do you stop coming up with ideas?!”
The point of the story is that experienced writers often get more ideas than they can possibly follow up on, and the last thing they need are more of them! But those same writers will admit that they sometimes go through creative dry spells, where they have no ideas — or worse yet, the ideas they have don’t seem to pan out.
Whether you are at the too-many or not-enough idea stage, there are a number of ways you can jump-start your creative engines, so that you can have more ideas, develop the ideas you have, and choose the best out of the bunch.
The ability to judge the heft of an idea is a skill that develops with time and experience. But an indicator of an idea’s strength is whether it survives the process of brainstorming. A prayerful meditation on your idea, with writing pad and pen close at hand and an open Bible, will do wonders for you. Often such meditation can clarify an idea, revealing its strengths and weaknesses, and help you transform a poor idea into one with depth and uniqueness.
I recently read a very perceptive quote from C. D. Jackson: “Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.” We need to think through all aspects of an idea before we try to implement it — the same way an aeronautical engineer thinks through the design of a plane so it will not only get up in the air, but also safely back to earth. In my own experience, I’ve found that if I try to work with an idea at the “kernel of thought” stage — the “Eureka!” moment that we all have once in a while — the idea either loses steam or produces mediocre results. The way to get an idea to the point of implementation is to take it through the brainstorming process, where every facet of the idea is analyzed and applied to real life.
For more ideas on giving your ideas landing gear, check out the chapter on brainstorming in my book, Concept to Contract.
David E. Fessenden (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a literary agent with WordWise Media Services and an independent publishing consultant with degrees in journalism and theology, and two decades of editorial management with Christian publishers. He has written six books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. His first novel, The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy, was published last fall. His blog on writing is www.fromconcepttocontract.com.