For writers, this might seem like a no-brainer and therefore a bit superfluous to include in a series on taking projects from inception through to fruition. Part of the conceit behind this blog though is to examine the art of writing through the separate and, seemingly, distinct art of woodworking. So even no-brainers have the potential to be fresh territory.
Fortune describes this step in his process as “the fun part.”
[It’s] the heart of the matter. The key is to generate as many ideas as possible.
I think most authors will agree that it’s more important to strike a balance between generating as many ideas as possible and plowing forward with ideas we find inspiring. After all, our daily word counts or our deadlines are pushing us to completion. We don’t, despite what the public or the in-laws might think, have the luxury to sit around typing or scribbling in notebooks without any definite structure in mind.
And that is precisely why Fortune’s advice applies to us. We need to make the most of the hours we set aside for writing (you do set aside hours for writing, yes?) To avoid those painful moments of questioning what comes next, why or how to move the plot, and so forth, it really helps to have a bag of tricks you can dip into for inspiration. Whether it’s a file on your hard drive, a notebook, or post-it notes that you stick around the edge of your monitor, you’ve got to have a repository for ideas that come to you, whatever they might be.
Generating ideas is how we train our minds to think creatively. If solving problems of plot or characterization is difficult for you, make a point of jotting down every idea that occurs to you throughout your day. Learn to recognize when your mind is telling you that it’s in creative mode. This might be the weird twitching feeling you get when you see a bird carrying a piece of twine in its beak, or the odd half-thought that occurs when you go to get the mail and find the box empty. Something in our minds wants to be creative, and as writers it is our job to allow that to happen as often and in whatever amount possible.