Getting & vetting ideas
by Jessa Slade on April 12th, 2010

Currently working on: Brand-new project
Mood: Fightin’ words

Most writers who tell other people that they write will eventually hear some version of the following conversation:

Non-writer: Wow, you write?  I’ve always wanted to write something.  Maybe a poem.  Or a screenplay that will make more than Avatar.  Probably not a novel, because only crazy people do novels.  But I have this great idea…
Writer: Look at the time, will ya?  I have to–
Non-writer: Hey, how about I tell you the idea, you write it down, and we’ll split the profits 50-50?
Writer: My world will not be complete without your idea. Seriously, tell me now before I expire from curiosity. But hold on just a second while I get a pen. Maybe a very expensive Waterman pen to adequately capture the brilliance of your idea.  You wait right here…

I personally have only endured this conversation three times (and to be honest, I wasn’t sarcastic to the non-writer at all) but I expect to have it many times more.  Because most people think the trick to writing is having the idea.

The truth?  Ideas are like chewing gum.  Ideas are so much like chewing gum that it’s really surprising they aren’t sold at convenience stores:

Ideas, like chewing gum, are cheap and everywhere:
I’m going to pull three books from my shelf.  The three closest to hand are a dictionary, a paranormal romance novel (happens to be Sharon’s SCORCHED!) and… hmm, Aid to Bible Understanding.  I randomly choose three words.  From the dictionary I get devoir, which in addition to looking very cool (like a combination of devoid and devour) means duty or responsibility, a formal act of civility.  From SCORCHED, I find incubus (hey, get your own copy!).  And from the bible book I get the word ointment.  You can see how there’s an inkling of an idea right there, right?

Ideas, like chewing gum, need to be chewed and softened up:
I don’t necessarily talk out my ideas a lot beforehand, but I think them out.  I chew on the idea, I stretch it, I stick it on the bedpost overnight and chew it again the next morning.

A good idea, like chewing gum, sticks to the bottom of your shoe:
I find that a good idea has staying power.  I can’t get to every idea right away, so I have a file where I tuck them away.  By the time I get back to them, some of the ideas have faded.  But some are still in minty fresh condition.  That’s an idea that might actually last through 400 pages.

Ideas, like chewing gum, are only as impressive as the hot air you blow into them:
What the non-writer doesn’t understand about ideas is that the idea itself — no matter how brightly packaged — is only a dry stick of artifical color and fake sugar.  It’s not until the hard work, spit, and huffing and puffing are through that you have something the world can admire.  Right before it blows up in your face and you have to cut the chunks out of your hair and rug, but that’s a different story.

I’m betting (see, here’s another idea) that the kind of gum you liked best as a kid predicts your future personality.  Like, a Rorschach ink blot test in chicle and corn syrup.  Reveal your favorite gum here and we’ll psychoanalyze you.

3 comments to “Getting & vetting ideas”

  1. 1

    Sugarless lemon-strawberry gum. Tangy, sweet, and no guilt. Yum.

  2. 2

    I recall that black cat bubble gum that showed up at Hallowe’en - licorice, black, gooey, and usually covers small children from head to foot in black slime.

    I really hope that’s no kind of prediction!

  3. 3

    My favorite is Trident peppermint, but I do have a soft spot for Fruit Stripes!

    Oh, my gosh! What have I just confessed about myself!? :wink:

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