Keeping Your Story Idea Alive


Be careful how quickly you give away your fire.  — Robert Bly


It’s tempting, isn’t it?  To want to tell someone, that is.  An idea churns away in your mind, characters begin knocking on the door, a few pages get written and hey, they’re not too shabby.  Things start to pull together.  Then the itch hits.

You’re at a dinner party and someone asks THAT question.  You know the one I’m talking about.

“So, what have you been working on lately?”

You fight it for a little while, but before you know it, you’re dishing out the goods.  By dessert, everyone knows about George’s loneliness for his deceased wife and you’re not sure whether the story should open with him sitting at the end of the driveway in his Buick or to have him stand in the kitchen re-warming the meatloaf his wife tucked away in the freezer for him because she knew this day would come.

The next day you sit at your desk and instead of hearing George’s voice, you hear Hannah suggesting you spice things up by giving George a girlfriend or Tom telling you the first-person point-of-view is dead, dead, dead.  You spend the next few hours trying to rekindle the flame of your original idea only to find the tinder doused.

Why do we do it?  Why do we tell others our ideas, our secrets?  Oh, I suppose one could chalk it up to human nature, but perhaps it has more to do with a need to validate ourselves, to hear our friends tell us we’re headed down the right path, that we aren’t wasting our time.  And if they’re really nice, that they’ll be the first ones in line beating off the hoards at your book signing.

Sure, we all crave affirmation.  Yet, we also set ourselves up for being judged prematurely when we expose our raw ideas too soon.  One needs to keep the fire going.  Time is never wasted exploring the depth of your ideas.  Immerse yourself.  Allow characters the chance to tell their stories.  Write, write, and write some more.

Like most things in writing, no hard-fast rules or magic formulas exist to tell you when the time will be right to share your work.  All I can say is that it’s kind of like falling in love.  You just know.

The time will come, trust me.  But, for now, button your lips and get writing.

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