The Power of Your Ideas

A story idea isn't about good or bad. Its power lies in its ability to get you to the page.

This week, I revisited an old story I wrote about a stray dog coming to visit. It was fiction, but based on an actual visit by a dog on a walkabout (there's something about dogs taking themselves for walks that has always intrigued me). He had a home but hung out on my porch like he was moving in.

Cat and dogs on a walkabout.

I wrote the story a couple of years ago, and something about it never felt right. So I stripped everything away but the dog and the main character, a young wife. And then I asked myself, why would she find the dog's visit such a relief?

Suddenly, I had an image in my mind: the woman standing on her deck, the baby asleep in the house, and the woman fighting an intense urge to run away. Enter the dog.

 

I had no idea what came next, but I sat down to write anyway. An hour later, I had a complete first draft (a rarity to discover the story that fast, so it felt great). Here's why this is important:

When you want to write, you don't need to wait until you know the whole story.

So many stuck writers tell me that they have an idea, but they feel like they need to figure out the whole story before they can write it.

Yet that approach leads to one outcome: feeling stuck. Just the need to "figure it out" BEFORE you write can be overwhelming.

In my workshops, we practice writing as a form of exploration and discovery. If you begin writing, what image, idea or scene appears that you never would have dreamt up without that pen in your hand?

The power of an idea is to get you to the page, to help you begin writing and see what happens next.

So if you have an idea for a piece, what is the first scene or image that pops into your head? Put 15 minutes on a timer and write it with the idea that you are not thinking something up, you are listening and watching for the story to reveal itself.

As you finish the first scene, what new image or idea pops into your mind? Let the act of writing be more like listening, and see what emerges.