16 Jun 2019

An Idea is the Beginning of Good Writing

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Sometimes the hardest part of writing just finding a place to begin. I’ve sat there for hours, sometimes an entire day, desperately trying to come up with something to write about. I’m sure all writers, regardless of whether they are seasoned professionals, college students writing their term papers, or just someone writing a letter, go through the same thing.

What do I write about today?

I’ve found over the years that the worst thing that I can do at the beginning is to try to come up with an idea for my next writing project. There’s something about thinking which doesn’t fit with good writing. This is more true for fiction than non-fiction, but the concept still applies.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth

But don’t you want think up an idea before you can write about it? Isn’t it best to sit down with pen and paper in hand, and just stare off into space, trying to come up with that incredibly idea for your next novel, non-fiction book, short story or whatever?

I’ll answer this with a resounding HELL NO! Thinking is great for writing a thesis or term paper or some other assignment, but out in the real world, when you are trying to actually create something from your heart, thinking gets in the way.

“Writing is a conscious decision to slow down and reflect, to get in touch with the soul. It has nothing to do with regimentation, data, or following the crowd. Writing is our greatest freedom, a return to self.”Melissa Greene – Writer, Teacher, and Believer in Art for a Kinder World

A Good Idea Comes from the Heart

The day I stopped looking to my brain for ideas, and instead looked into my heart (or soul as some would call it) is the day I became a professional fiction writer. My books and stories and novels came to life, and my ideas morphed overnight from flat, purposeless, lifeless collections of characters and words to living recordings of feelings, thoughts, and emotions directly from my heart.

“I write because I must. It’s not a choice or a pastime, it’s an unyielding calling and my passion.” Elizabeth Reyes

You see, the brain has limitations. We’ve all bought into various dogmas, formed by our background, upbringing, religion, education, and profession. Those dogmas are burned into our mind from an early age. These dogmas get in the way of good writing, because they are barriers to prevent freedom of thought. A dogma, regardless of whether it’s true or not, is a straitjacket and holds a person in place as if wrapped in spider webs.

On the other hand, the heart knows no such boundaries. Scientific dogma states unequivocally that going faster than light is a physical impossibility. That may or may not be true (I suspect it is as true as the earlier belief that the world was flat) but the heart doesn’t care about such restrictions. Writing a story from the heart eliminates being bounded by that dogma (or choosing to be bound by it to create a particular story.)

The thing is ideas come from the heart spontaneously and of their own accord. You cannot sit down and think think think until an idea spills out of your heart. You just look and the idea is there or it isn’t.

Ideas from the heart cannot be forced.

For me, the best way to get ideas is to relax and let them flow. I open my mind, take a walk along the beach or at a botanical garden, paint a plastic model or work on my stamp collection. While I do such activities, my mind opens up and the ideas flow.

Conversely, stress kills ideas and makes it almost impossible to even see the heart. Ideas don’ t flow well when a person is under stress.

You see, for four decades I wanted to be a writer. But life, as is often the case, got in the way. I needed to hold a job, and accepted offers in the computer industry. The stress was exceptionally high. I made lots of money and had a great career, but I couldn’t write anything that was important to me. Oh sure, I wrote hundreds of technical articles, books, manuals, and guides for the companies who employed me, but I never wrote anything from my heart of significance .

There was too much stress in the way.

So there you have it. Find a place to relax, get a good cup of tea or water (avoid drugs and alcohol as they throw up a barrier making it more difficult to create), and let your mind wander free.

“Words are the bones. Writing is the lungs. Reading is like breathing.” T.L. Crain

I think you will find, as I did. that the ideas start to flow. Write them down. Don’t write your story or article while getting ideas. Just jot down the ideas and write later.

I hope this has been of some benefit.

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