Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Big Idea

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

When an idea comes to us, we make an immediate assessment of its value. We ask ourselves, Is it worth doing?  Is it possible to do? Do I even want to do it?

The decision of whether or not a given idea deserves to be given a chance is often left up to our gut feeling, and rightly so, since intuition can be more accurate than hard-fought analyzing. Within a few seconds, our inner critic may decide it's not original enough, we don't have the time to do it, or that someone else could do it better. A lot of good ideas are left on the table and forgotten.

Fortunately, in those magic moments of inspiration, there sometimes are ideas we decide are worth holding on to, and, much like the proverbial light bulb over the head, we feel instantly illumined.  These ideas fill us with such enthusiasm that we can think of nothing else.  Or they may nag us until we do something about them.

Some of these ideas, we will see through to completion.  Others we'll jump into with enthusiasm only to lose momentum after a few chaptersor, worse, a few paragraphsand they end up on the cutting room floor with the rest of our creative castaways.

What makes the difference is how much passion we bring to the project.  Normally we think of passion as an earnest pursuit of something. But many dictionaries include its additional meaning, one that relates to sacrifice and suffering (as in The Passion of the Christ).  If we really believe in something, we're willing to put in the effort.  When it matters enough to us, we have no choice but to make it happen.
Sue Grafton said, "Ideas are easy. It's the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats." I'm not sure how many of us have aspired to goathood, but we sure want to get that Great American Novel written.  Fortunately, it's November 1st and two great things happen today that could be the catalyst:

1) NaNoWriMo.  Can you write a 50,000-word novel this month?  Yes you can, and writers with even less time to devote to writing than you do have done it every November since 1999.  Break it down to 1,667 words (roughly 7 pages) a day and it still sounds like a challenge, but that's part of the charm of National Novel Writing Month. It virtually forces you to write with wild abandon to reach your daily goal and not worry about making your first draft perfect. When was the last time you wrote with wild abandon?  Take the leap, fellow goat.

2) The November/December issue of Southern Writers. Need further convincing to do NaNoWriMo? Sherry Rentschler offers first-hand motivation in her article "I NaNo and You Should Too!" In addition, the new issue offers inspiration via interviews with leading authors including Jayne Ann Krentz, Sherri Wilson Johnson and Tanya Anne Crosby, just for starters.  And with instructional articles on Creative Nonfiction, self-promotion, and book launching, your writing future's so bright you can get out your Foster Grants now.

It it were possible to wave a magic wand and jump directly from getting the initial story idea to being on the New York Times best seller list with it, we'd undoubtedly do it.  But we'd miss out on a fantastic journey and the proud satisfaction of having seen it through. I hope to write 50,000 words in November, and look forward to celebrating with you when you do the same.

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