Here’s another writing rule I’ve instituted recently. I call it the Let’s See rule. The problem is ideas. Ideas are great. They’re a start. And everyone loves them. Everyone loves to sit around and come up with ideas for how to make everything better. As the editor of Author, I have over the years listened to a lot of ideas for how to improve the magazine. My new rule for such ideas is this: don’t bring me one unless you also have some semblance of a plan for how this idea will be implemented. This rule is a kind of cousin to my Let’s See rule. Implementation is all. So it is in writing, so it is in life. For instance, it is impossible for me to know if an idea conceived while running or taking a shower will actually fit into my story until I begin writing it. This is true of both vague ideas and ideas that appear to come to me fully formed. I had to institute my Let’s See rule because ideas can seem so perfect out of context, and I can get so excited thinking I know just what is going to happen next, that I refuse to accept when the idea doesn’t actually fit in the story.
Once again, writing is always about trust. There are lots, and lots, and lots of ideas floating through the biosphere. When one idea comes, I step back and say, “let’s see,” reminding myself that if it doesn’t work, more will come. More always comes. Once I have committed to a story, my only allegiance is to it, not some glittering idea that might come drifting by.
We are not our ideas. It can seem that way sometimes because certain very important parts of our lives begin as ideas: I’d like to write stories; Maybe I should move to Montana; I wonder if I should join the PTA? But just as your stories area a discrete emotional current moving in one definitive direction, so too are you a unique and discrete focus of energy.
Ideas are nothing. I cannot make money as a writer is just an idea. It is not a reality, it is only a possibility that might or might not fit within the current of your life. Your only allegiance is to the story of your life, the direction toward which you feel most powerfully drawn. Every idea is a gift from the universe that you can decline or accept. The universe’s feelings are never hurt. It wants only what is best for you, but it knows only you know what is ultimately best for you, which is why the universe always asks itself when it offers every idea, “Let’s see if he likes this one.”
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.