In my desk drawer and in a file folder lies a page of ideas. Half started stories, chapters to books, picture books, concept art. On my computer, there is a similar file folder of notes and text docs, all having work of all lengths within them but also not being worked upon. All of them had clamoured for attention at some point, as early as 2003 and as late as last month, and all of them I dabbled with.
But all of them have something common: the idea left me.
No one really knows why an idea goes walking, and there’s a wealth of theory, both ‘woowoo’ and based in science. In this, I look at it being a mixture of both: the science of motivation and the sheer belief of creative faith. These artifacts of different times, these objects that had once delighted me, all faded in their importance in my life. So let’s explore some theory about why that could be for me and why it could be for you.
- The idea needs better writing and you’re not ready for it. I hate this one. I really do. Mostly because it infers that I’m not a good enough writer yet. So I tend to try to ignore this one but it is a very real possibility for many of us, ego aside. Sometimes an idea is complex and you’re just a new writer (or ‘young writer’ as Neil Gaiman would say) and no matter how you write it, it just never seems to come out as beautifully on paper as it seems in your head. So the idea goes looking for a new writer who has the matching skillset.
- The plot/style/genre/character is there but not enough to capture your interest. This also sucks. I try different things all the time but I find I’m really getting settled in my own style. And that, for example, won’t include second person POV or cozy mystery. But sometimes I get those ideas so I work on them anyway. But it never lasts long because, frankly, those things really don’t interest me. The muse carts it off into the ‘not for her’ pile and they leave me alone for a while in those cases.
- You take too long. Do ideas have a time limit? I think sometimes that they do. I’ve had full fledged ideas, glorious and beautiful, that I write out. Sometimes I get to fifty pages, sometimes I have six chapters done, histories, settings, a story bible. But then I get distracted by my day to day drama in life. Or I allow myself to do things outside of that story that aren’t what the story needs (such as writing a short story or some fanfiction or play video games) and sometimes, just sometimes, that idea goes walking. It is as if it’s a dismissive boy/girlfriend who goes ‘you’re not going to pay attention to me? Then I’ll find someone who will!’
- You realize your idea isn’t what makes a story. This is actually an okay one. I’ve had ideas that I think in my head will be a great story but when I’ve worked on it, I realized it was better as a script or a graphic novel, or even a piece of art work. So I let the idea take the form it wishes. Ideas can be very fluid so it is best to not force them to take a form they don’t like.
The theory that you must stick to your idea can be dangerous because not always will it work out for you. So you sometimes need to work within the boundaries of your creativity a while and THEN break the very rules you set out for yourself. Sometimes an idea needs to be turned upside down or shifted just a little bit to the left before you find the way to crack it open. Then you just need to keep your discipline in moving forward with that idea and not letting yourself get distracted. But if you lose an idea, that’s okay. Let it go and find the person it was meant for and work with the idea you have now. The fluidity of ideas is what makes creativity not static and always evolving.