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Marrying Your Ideas

Writing a book is a relationship between you and an idea. Whether or not you actually finish writing a book really depends on the type of relationship you have with that idea. I have seen a fair number of very creative and skilled people with great ideas who can't finish a book. Why?

Well, it's a commitment issue. Creative people fall in love with ideas, but too often that love is like a fleeting high school crush. We love the idea so much! It's so cool! It makes us feel special! We dive into it in, relish it, smother it, tell the whole world!

Then a couple months later we dump it.

Everybody, and I do mean everybody, loves the honeymoon phase of a relationship. It is full of passion and wonderment and discovery. Then the honeymoon ends. It always ends. Every time. As a writer you should expect that this will happen and prepare for it. That initial exciting glow of an idea will not last long enough to propel your ideas into full-blown stories.

Just like with any relationship, you have to know and accept what you're getting into if you decide to "marry" the wonderful, attractive idea you see sitting across from you in that fertile mind of yours. What does a mature relationship with an idea entail? Well, are you willing to:

  • Take hours to sit down and really get to know your idea?

  • Keep going when you realize that the idea is not perfect and probably not even close to a story?

  • Dedicate months and even years to its development?

  • Stick with it when you get tired of it, when you've read and revised it a bazillion times?

  • Stay faithful when another really attractive, brilliant idea tries to seduce you into another relationship?

  • Love your idea when people have pointed out flaws in it?

  • Stay interested when you run into the inevitable writer's blocks and slowdowns?

  • Be enthusiastic about your idea when you spend hours tweezing out grammatical errors?

Relationships with people means work. Relationships with ideas means work. Can you commit? Or are you just a player who flits from idea to idea, never really settling on any one for too long?

Okay, maybe I'm coming off as a little harsh, and I don't want to discourage anyone. But creativity must be tempered by--and can only flourish with--a realistic notion of the work it takes to really develop an idea into a story. If you can't accept the work part of storymaking, then your fertile mind becomes a chronicle of premature breakups and ugly divorces.

Budding writers would do well to not only nurture ideas, but to nurture the discipline of having a committed relationship with ideas. And just like any relationship, when the work is put in, when the sacrifices are made, there is a contentment and satisfaction that transcends that initial blush of love at first sight.

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