Hallmarks of a Good Writing Idea

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I've been obsessed playing with Pinterest the last couple of days.   I love this new site where you can create online picture boards, tagging photos from across the web. Not that this should be a surprise–you're on the blog of a woman who offers a free Ebook on creating Vision Boards, after all.

But what interests me about it is why it has captured my attention.  In spare moments I zip over to my Pinterest page and create more boards.  In boring meetings I ponder subjects for new boards I could create.

This is the way I felt last week about my novel.  Yes, just last week. Oh dear, wonderful novel please forgive me for my betrayal!  This new infatuation will fade, as infatuations do, and I'll be back to you, my first and true love soon.  I hope.

This new love of mine begs the question: what is it about an idea that engages us?  What is it about a writing topic that attracts us?  And is it important to choose our subject matter carefully or should we just write about any old idea that comes ambling down the pike?

I happen to have opinions on this subject.  (I know, you're shocked.)  I think the subject you choose is vital.  If you're working on a book-length project, it is doubly vital, because you are going to be working on that project for the long haul, and it is very easy to get bored.  I know this from first-hand experience.  And the three novels I started and abandoned in between the one I'm marketing and the one I'm writing are testament to the boredom factor. 

They also attest to the mysterious state when you're working on something and it just doesn't feel right.  The muse, she is a strange creature and sometimes she feeds you ideas that aren't really meant to be developed.  (Which is why I like keeping an idea book, and jamming thoughts and snippets in it, all together.  Then half-baked ideas mate with other semi-developed thoughts and create full ideas.)  I once heard a writer say that ideas are like trains coming down the track–and if you don't jump on them as they come to you, the moment for that idea has passed you by.  Not sure I agree with that, do you?

As I've been pondering this topic, I've come up with some things that denote a good writing topic.  So herewith, hallmarks of a good writing idea:

  • It makes your heart go pitty-pat and you get an ineffable feeling of happiness and connection when you ponder it. (I say ponder on purpose, because generally this is a feeling that will come over you before or after you write, not necessarily during.)
  • The subject never bores you.  As mentioned above, you're going to be working with this idea for a good, long time, so if you're struggling to stay interested, that's a bad sign.  A very bad sign.
  • The topic is something dear to your heart, something you believe in fervently and really want to share with the world.  Fervor feeds feeling and feeling feeds writing.
  • It just feels right when you're working on it.  I know, I know, this is a bit vague, but I think you know what I mean.
  • You don't have to force yourself to work on it.  I realized this with a novel I attempted to create.  I hated working on it.  I could barely force myself to open the file.  Whereas I could barely keep myself away from the other novels I've written. (Until I got infatuated with Pinterest. Sigh.)

Okay, your turn.

Create as successful, inspired writing life: Run your latest idea through the above points.  Does it fit?  You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by choosing the right idea.  But don't worry, sometimes it takes a few false starts before an idea sticks.

Please comment.  I'd love to hear how you choose writing ideas, and if you have a criteria for which ones to follow through on.   What's the farthest you've ever gotten before abandoning a writing project?

 

Photo credit: brokenarts.

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9 Comments on "Hallmarks of a Good Writing Idea"

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Guest
02/17/2012 10:01

I don’t think I agree about having only one chance to jump on an idea train either. Sometimes you’re not ready to direct your focus on it yet. But noticing and recording the idea will help plant it in the back of your mind so that you can be creating connections between it and other ideas for however long you need. Eventually, it may be an idea whose time has come. I love your list of questions to see if an idea is worth committing to. I definitely judge my ideas with my body and emotions and listen for that… Read more »

Guest
02/17/2012 10:05

Sue, you’re right–sometimes an idea comes back around in slightly different form and you just had to wait for that form to come together. And your comments on working on a long project are well taken. I’ve been in the middle of a novel and have no idea how I’m going to get to the end. But then something makes my heart leap again and back I go. Thanks, as always, for coming by.

Guest
02/17/2012 14:18

Charlotte, the questions you provide in this post have helped me more than you could know. I’ve been stalling on progress/finishing with writing/preparing an eBook, some posts, and other content for a new website project I wanted to launch by the middle of March. I considered that maybe the glitch was losing interest in my subject matter, but truthfully I’m still passionate about it all. So like Sue mentioned, I looked at my ‘relationship’ with my project with new appreciation and ardor after reading these questions, realizing I totally love my project and the potential of it all. I know… Read more »

Guest
02/17/2012 14:59

Oh Carole Jane, you just made my Friday! I’m so glad this was helpful. And it sounds to me as if you are a typical overloaded creative type–so many wonderful projects to work on at once! It’s no wonder we get overloaded once in awhile. I can’t wait to see what your Ebook is about, I know you’ll share it here with us, one way or another, perhaps through a guest post? Happy weekend!

Guest
02/17/2012 16:18

The analogy of the train stresses me out just thinking about it! I couldn’t bear the thought that I might miss one of my ideas. I think of ideas more like flowers. When you first see them they are beautiful, colourful, fragrant – perhaps still opening. They capture your attention and brighten your life. However, in their fresh state they only have a limited life (but longer than a train hurtling by). It’s up to you what you do with them. Do you put it in water and admire it for a limited time, perhaps its natural life? Some ideas… Read more »

Guest
02/17/2012 16:20

Wow. That analogy took on a life of its own! And I think I completely wandered off the topic you were talking about.

That was so much fun! I think I’m going to write my own post about it. :)

Guest
02/17/2012 19:21

Some ideas you have to really work on. Some ideas, however, just seem to go… pop… and there they be in your old noggin, and all without much thinking or effort on your part at all! However, being the strange fellow that I am, I have this really strange idea generating trick…. I will sleep on it! I do that by having a nice launch, think about what I want to write about before going for my nappy, and then drift off to dreamland, a land of endless possibilities and one with virtually no restriction on my ideas! Somehow, as… Read more »

Guest
02/18/2012 08:30

Jessica, I’m so pleased that everyone is rejecting the train analogy I mentioned. And I love your metaphor of the flower. The other thing I love about you is that you are a writing writer. Give you a topic and you go–it is absolutely wonderful and I feel blessed that you take the time to write comments on my blog. Thank you. I’m going to think of ideas in terms of flowers from now on.

Guest
02/18/2012 08:32

Don, Wow this is my day to get long, wonderful comments! Really enjoyed reading about your dream life and how it impacts your writing. My favorite part is your assertion that you don’t know how, but it just “bloody works.” I had some amazing dreams last night but woke up and forgot them. I still don’t have much luck recalling them. Any tips?

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