Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Magpies, Back Pockets, and the Shiny

I have a theory that most writers are magpies.  We can be working diligently on The Idea that we're super-excited about, typing away, maybe even editing and then--Shiny!  Shiny New Idea!

And like a distractable magpie, we either flit off after it or have a very hard time resisting the pull of the Shiny.

We talk a lot about how to keep focused on the project at hand, which is important, but--the Shiny is important, too.

The Shiny is our creativity, and our drive, and, in the end, it's the heart and soul of our books.  Because without the Shiny Idea, there is no story, no intriguing character, no exciting setting or innovative concept.

Yet we can't run off after all the Shiny Ideas, unless we never want to finish anything.  It's true that, after lots of work and wear and dare we say, love, an idea gets a little worn.  It's easy to find more interest in something Shiny than in something you've been drudging away on for weeks, months, years.

This is why we all need a back pocket.  Somewhere to tuck those Shiny Ideas into until it's time to rifle through them and pick one out to play with.  I have a Giant Blue Notebook where I jot down my ideas before they fly away.  It's hard to remind myself when I'm jonesing after writing the Shiny, but the Shiny will keep.  If it comes out of the back pocket tarnished and dull, it wasn't that Shiny to begin with.

Now is one of those Back Pocket times.  I have a draft of my current WIP with my agent, and while I wait for her feedback, I let myself sort through my back pocket and pick a new project to play with.  No pressure--just playing, drafting, seeing where it goes.  If it goes somewhere--great!  If not, I learned that this Shiny Idea isn't anything more than that--a fleeting, pretty concept that can't grow into a whole story.

Do you keep ideas in your back pocket?  Do you start most new projects from a cache of ideas, or from what's alive in your head at that moment?


  1. Good luck with your new idea!!!

    I have a shiny idea too. It calls to me like a siren. I put it in my notebook--scenes come and I dutifully write them down. But I haven't started it yet. I have other writing obligations.

    I'm trying to convince myself that it's best this way. The shiny idea will take a long time to write, and this will give me a chance to let it simmer longer. I don't really believe that, but it's what I tell myself. In the meantime, that idea is like a jewel I've got hidden away that I can take out and dream over when my WIP feels like drudgery.

  2. Unfortunately, I don't have many shiny ideas. So I'm like the left out magpie, who is stuck with the not-so-shiny-old-idea. I have IDEAS though... but I refuse to give them any thought, and if I'm tempted I'll be like THERE'S NO ACTUAL STORY THERE LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE!