Finding The Joy Of Writing

Over recent months, I’ve found myself fighting with the first major writer’s block of my short time as a blogger. My enthusiasm for writing in itself hasn’t diminished so it’s been a very confusing time in all honesty. A number of stories still swim through my head and I hold onto them as best I can but when it comes to putting them into words the way I’m used to, something always stops me.

I’ve written about writer’s block before but this has, by far, been the most mind boggling situation to find myself in. At first, I just tried to break through it and began experimenting with methods that would take me outside of my usual routine in order to stimulate a change in my mentality. From repainting my home to spending a weekend camping alone in the middle of nowhere, I was willing to try anything to break the block. Often I would think it was working but when the time came to write, even logging my experiences felt like a struggle.

For those who don’t know, I was a full time carer for someone when I first began blogging. I spent a lot of my time housebound and in a way, writing probably saved my sanity through that period of my life. I didn’t discuss my life as a carer but it gave me a focus other than what was right in front of me. I had no expectations for myself other than to love the very process of writing. The recognition and feedback of others was surprising but gratifying and over time, I began to hope that I could make something of this. Writing has been a passion unlike any other for me so finding myself unable to write has been infuriating and at times, even depressing.

Then I stopped being a carer shortly after the block began. I got a full time job and started to wonder if writing had just been an outlet to get me through a difficult phase of my life. I wondered if I’d be happier just stopping. And for a while, I did. Not once since then have I stopped wanting to write but it’s always ended the same way – with frustration, anger and usually a hasty surrender.

This post, on the other hand – and hopefully all future posts – is different. I’ve dwelt on the reason for these difficulties constantly and asked myself time and time again “How do I beat this?” with no answer in sight… That changed when I started asking a different question.

Why Do You Want To Beat This?

A creator is someone who makes something that starts as nothing but a mere thought. Through the creator that thought takes shape and with a bit of time, commitment and sometimes a little luck, it becomes something more. The end result can be whatever the creator decides they want it to be and because of that, the possibilities are limitless. A few words can be more powerful than a thousand and there will never be too many stories or songs in the world because the process in itself can take any shape or form.

There’s a joy in that process which can’t be clearly described. That may seem pretty rich coming from someone claiming to be a writer but that’s exactly the point. Creation isn’t definable, there’s no rule book to it but more often than not, we try to write the rules. It doesn’t take muck to see from my past posts that I’ve attempted just that.

When you focus more on defining the process than just enjoying the process itself, you stop creating. My theories on writing are just theories but I began to see them differently. They became rules that I had to abide by and through sharing those rules I put pressure on myself to get it right every time which goes against the very nature of a writer. I don’t want to be right all the time, but I want to write all the time. Forgetting that is what stopped me in my tracks for this long.

I’m writing publicly today with confidence for the first time in a long time because I’ve let go of those imaginary rules. I’m not going to get it right every time and neither are you. Writing isn’t about getting it right, it’s about expressing your passion and turning your thoughts into something you can take pride and joy in. If it gives that same joy to others then it’s a bonus, nothing more.

Don’t prioritise your work succeeding over the work itself. The creative industry as a whole is an amazing industry that all creators want to be a part of, we just don’t need to be. Love the process and hope that others around will enjoy it. If you create something with true love, chances are they will.

I think this post is written with love and I know it’s been written for me. I want that to be the case with everything I post going forward.

I’ll still hope you all enjoy it though.

Descriptive Writing: Sharing Your World.

The single most incredible thing about writing is the imagery it can produce from mere text. The power to translate the words of a story into a clearly envisioned scene within the minds of readers is, for me, a truly beautiful gift for a storyteller to have.

That being said, I’ve always hated descriptive writing.My comfort zone has always been deeply rooted in writing dialogue but when it comes to writing, – particularly in prose – descriptive text isn’t something that can be avoided. It’s an absolute essential to the creation of an engaging story yet there are so many ways it can be done wrong.

Shattering The Illusion

I wouldn’t presume that to be down to inferior writing though. Sure, some writers may simply need to refine their abilities so they can provide a clearer image of the world they’ve created with words alone but in my experience that’s rarely the real problem. The most common crime in descriptive text is actually the complete opposite.

I don’t know about you folks but for me, there is nothing more off-putting in a story than a large wall of descriptive text providing in-depth information on something that seems pretty much irrelevant to the bigger picture of the story. Entire cities and landscapes can be described with giant blocks of text when only a small portion of what’s described has any relevance to the story itself.

This is quite possibly the biggest problem for writers to watch out for, whether they be aspiring authors or professional scriptwriters. When somebody falls in love with a story, it’s because they aren’t just reading words, they’re partaking in a new journey. How many times have you been lost in the worlds created by others and imagined yourself there in that moment? Perhaps you’ve seen yourself as the protagonist who leads that journey, or maybe you believed yourself a simple spectator.

The second a story is disrupted by descriptive text that doesn’t engage you, that journey falls apart in your mind. The illusion dissolves and you find yourself once again sitting with a mere collection of words. I’m ashamed to say as a passionate reader that on more than one occasion I’ve found myself skimming through large portions of an otherwise wonderful story for that very reason but I know I’m not the only one.

So how do we stop moments like that from happening? Where is the line between fine writing and too much information?

In my opinion, the problem isn’t so much about the line as it’s about how you as a writer perceive your own story.

See The World As The Character, Not The Writer.

Writing a story you truly love is one of the most exciting things a writer can do and we feel the need to share as much of that world as possible, especially when they’re set in worlds of our own creation.We strive to be as clearly descriptive as possible so that the reader can vividly see the world in their mind and feel the same excitement and passion for it as we do.

There’s one slight hitch with that though: It’s easy to forget that the average reader isn’t interested in what YOU see in this world you’ve created.

Now I know that sounds a little strange but just hear me out! You are the author, true…but after you’ve completed your task of actually writing this unique piece of fiction, are you relevant to the story at all? Does your personal vision of this world have any importance to what takes place or to the reader?

Of course not! It doesn’t matter that you are this world’s creator! Just like your readers, you are an outsider. Even if you decided to fashion one of the characters after yourself, you are not that character! It doesn’t matter if you’re the one pulling the strings of fate in this story because in the reader’s mind, you’re not the one leading the journey. That task falls to the characters themselves.

They are the ones your readers wish to follow, to relate to and empathize with. After all, they are the ones dealing with the challenges you’ve put before them! And so, it’s up to you to look through the eyes of your characters, see the world exactly as they see it and describe their perception of things rather than your own. If you can only see the world as yourself, an outsider, then you make outsiders of your readers as well.

Relevance To The Character Is What Matters

How many characters are going to fixate on the designs of a town hall’s floor tiles, or the changing flight patterns of birds in the skies or what each individual stranger they pass is wearing? How many characters contemplate what the standard attire of winter is when the story is set in Summer? Who can give the fine details on the practices of a religious organization they have no desire to be associated with just by passing one of their churches?

That kind of descriptive text isn’t necessary unless it’s relevant to your character or your story! While I have no doubt that you’ve created a truly rich and vibrant world for this story to take place in, you can’t expect the typical reader to take interest in these walls of information! Sure, they may want to know more about your world but they don’t want it to be forced upon them when it only serves to delay the progression of the story itself!

If you entered a strange place, what would you take notice of? What would you inquire about and what would you already know of it? How do you describe your hometown to a stranger within a few minutes and what do they ask when you’re finished?

These are the questions you need to ask when writing descriptive text because the reader doesn’t want all the answers at once and the ones they do want need to be relevant! Each sentence should paint a new coat of detail on the image in the reader’s mind and every detail should be of some importance to the journey in question.

Always look through the character’s eyes, not the writer’s. Something should only be noted in descriptive text if a character notices it and a new process should only be explained if the character understands it themselves.

Be the character describing their vision of the world, not the writer who sees all. You’re writing a story, not an encyclopedia.

And if you find yourself writing those large blocks of descriptive text, just stop and ask yourself: How can your readers feel a sense of discovery if you do all the discovering for them?

An Empty Room: The Productivity Experiment

 

When the desire to get productive comes to mind, the brain can fixate on that desire, whether you want it to or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from a creative block or if you just don’t feel focused for the day, the human mind doesn’t always know how to switch off.

Now that’s great when you’re actually being productive but in those tough moments in between where you just don’t feel up to it, it can become a frustrating and almost painful distraction that hinders you rather than encourages.

During that time, you may find yourself mentally listing off the important things that you want to achieve for the day: Whether it’s utilizing and improving some of your creative talents or just getting the simple weekly chores that we all deal with out of the way so they won’t be hanging over you for the whole week.

Unfortunately, the reality rarely matches up to our expectations. In my case, the result is that I usually end up lying on my bed binge watching Netflix with a bottle of wine close at hand. Even as I relax to whatever TV show has caught my eye for the week, I continue to dwell on the fact that I should be doing something much more worthwhile with my free time…and yet I just keep on watching.

I argue to myself that I’m under the influence of alcohol by that point so I may as well wait until the morning to be productive… except that productive morning doesn’t arrive because either I sleep in thanks to the wine or I have other priorities to take care of. By the time I’m in a position to begin what I told myself I would do, I’m already in the mindset to begin the Netflix binge all over again.

It’s a vicious cycle and the longer it goes on, the more infuriating it can become. The worst part is how easy it is to fall into that routine. For the majority of aspiring writers, bloggers and other creators, the bulk of our early work is done from home. Whether it’s in our bedrooms, our lounges or wherever else we see fit, there’s always a spot somewhere in the household that becomes your regular creative space. For the sake of this post, I’ll presume that most of you do so in the privacy of your own bedroom; A typical safe space at home for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The downside to that space is that it’s usually your regular space for most other things as well. In many of today’s societies, a person’s bedroom can contain a television, a computer, at least a shelf’s worth of reading material, perhaps even a gaming console, a musical instrument or two and the limitless content of the internet to peruse, all at your disposal from a single location. Essentially, that one space has the potential for all work AND all play and as is human nature, we regularly choose play when we shouldn’t.

The timing for me to suffer from my own personal writer’s block has been pretty auspicious, as I’d already been long overdue to repaint the walls of my rather mangy bedroom. Therefore, I decided to implement that inevitable chore into my first attempt to find the off switch for my brain.

Typically, I would ask for help from some friends in something like this, especially when I’d never actually painted a room alone before now. However, if I’m not distracting myself at home then I’m usually distracting myself at a bar with friends. No doubt they’d suggest the entire paint job be done with a crate of beer at our disposal (and that would defeat the whole point of this experiment) so in the end, I decided to go it alone. After emptying the room of all furnishings and gadgets, I put on my old radio and got to work.

There’s something rather therapeutic about painting when you have the right tools but after a few hours, the discount roller I was using began to bend, making the job much more time consuming and tedious to the point that I thought I would abandon the job altogether. I grew more and more frustrated until the only thing keeping me painting was the realization of how stupid a half-painted room would look. Suffice to say, I was rather pessimistic for a time at the thought of recounting this experience with you all as I expected it to yield little to no results.

When the job was finally finished however, the relief was instantaneous. It wasn’t with a sense of achievement, but rather that of a burden being removed. I sat on the floor in the middle of the room, observing my handiwork cautiously for any mistake that would force me off the ground once more to resume the job.

But there were none. I’d completed my task and if I do say so myself, I’d done a rather fine job of it! I switched off the radio and took a moment to relax on the carpet. I began mentally preparing myself to stand up so I could wash the paint from my hands but I felt too exhausted to move. Instead I just sat there and closed my eyes, basking in the silence for a moment.

I didn’t sleep. I didn’t even lie down on the carpet beneath me. I simply sat and listened to the occasional noises that sounded from the open window. I found it strange how sounds change when a room changes. The echoes carry in such a way that I began to understand a little about how bats can navigate so well at night by sound alone. I could almost feel the walls around me and there was a sense of safety in knowing how far I was from any other obstacle.

After a time, I stopped thinking about the sounds. I stopped thinking about anything although I was still aware that I was awake. I was simply content in the quiet escape I had from my usual distractions.

When I finally stood up, I felt more relaxed that I have done in weeks. I plugged in my laptop and began writing, heedless of the dried paint I was shedding onto the keyboard. It wasn’t the quality of the writing that had particularly changed, or the quantities that I produced. It just flowed more freely for me, as if the pressure of trying to be productive was gone from my mind…at least for a time.

I’ve only just scratched the surface on how some hard work and a moment of meditation can help to settle the mind and give it fresh focus. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered: Did I benefit more from the fatigue of painting with a broken roller or was it all in the tranquility that came after? Or must the two always coincide?

I plan to explore both separately to further distinguish the effects they have on the mindset of the creator. I plan to test them in new environments to see just how accessible the best experience can be.

It’s still early days in the Productivity Experiment and I only have this one experience to go on so far…but right now, I honestly can’t imagine a more peaceful place to be than an empty room.

The Creative Mind: Battling The Block

Creativity is a fascinating thing! There are countless possibilities to what can form in the creative mind with no limits to what a single individual can invent. Ideas can be shared universally by others but the devil is always in the details and when it comes down to the details, every idea becomes completely unique. When you consider just how much work that big old brain of yours can really do, it’s actually quite mind-boggling (pardon the pun)!

And yet, finishing a project we can be proud of is always an uphill battle. There’s always room for improvement in our work or a more efficient way to complete it but these often feel like goals that are just out of our reach. This can be due to a lack of confidence in our abilities, a sense of urgency to meet deadlines and a series of other factors. The most common problem however is that old classic; the dreaded creative/writer’s block. 

It’s the most disheartening  and infuriating experience you will ever deal with as a creator and it can strike anytime for any number of reasons. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already experienced it on more than one occasion and if you haven’t, I can guarantee that you will.

There’s no definitive explanation as to what causes that creative block but there are many ways for you to work around it. Some of these suggestions may tailor to you, some may not. Regardless, you’ll be much better off attempting them than you will sitting around waiting for the block to just pass of it’s own accord.

Maintain A Positive Work Space

Many people mistake this to mean “clean your room” but that isn’t strictly true. Everybody has a unique process of their own and while some may feel the need to keep everything tidy and organized, there are others (like myself) who have a more chaotic process by nature. Project notes can be neatly stacked on one work desk and scattered across another yet the results can be equally successful.

This is because both desks have one thing in common: They tailor to whoever is sitting behind them. If you prefer your working environment to be clean and organized then keep it clean and organized. If you have an alternate system that works for you then don’t deny that system. Stick to what suits you so you always have the positive mentality that can bring out your best work.

There are naturally a few limits on what’s effective for both sides of the spectrum. Depending on the size of your project, an organized individual may spend more time trying to maintain their work space than they do actually working. Meanwhile, a mountain of dirty plates and an overflowing ashtray does not count as an effective contribution to an organized mess. Whether you’re organizing everything you do or just letting it stack up in a pile, always make sure your work space is a positive environment for you.

Don’t Cram Your Schedule

Setting unrealistic deadlines while maintaining your day job/studies/social life adds to your stress until you inevitably begin glancing towards the clock while your mind wanders to the next task on your busy schedule. That time is meant for creating. Juggling your other activities simply hinders your progress and you will notice the decline in your quality of work.

If you’re taking time to work on your creative project, make that time about your project and nothing else.

If You’re Going To Procrastinate, Do It Properly

If you find yourself hindered by the block for an extended period, get out the old notepad. Write your progress so far and then rewrite it. Put the questions that you’re failing to solve onto paper and write the potential solutions around it. Just seeing those questions sitting in front of you can spur you forward unexpectedly. A whiteboard can be a surprisingly helpful ally as you fight to breach those walls.

If those questions remain unanswered, move on to the next part of your project for a time. There’s a time that comes with any unsolved problem where frustration and stress begins to hinder you further. The best solution is to take a step back for a time. Focusing the mind elsewhere an allow for your subconscious to try and put the pieces together in the background while you make progress elsewhere.

Don’t force yourself through a problem you’re not solving when there are better ways to spend that time. Being aware of your own progression is one of the most encouraging  sensations for a creator and you should hold on to that throughout your entire process. Your momentum can be slowed but it should never be allowed to stop for long.

Change Up Your Own Schedule

There is such a thing as spending too much time on your project. Powering through a creative project when you don’t feel inspired can be much more damaging than taking an extra break or two and if you force yourself to put your nose to the grindstone for too long, the passion for your work can die pretty quickly. Maintaining that creative spark is nowhere near as difficult as reigniting it.

Unfortunately, it does happen quite often. The big problem with creators is that they are usually overly eager to get their project completed and out into the world. That time will come but it won’t happen overnight. Eat, Sleep, Create, Repeat will not do you or your work any favors, you need to take time to yourself and make the rest of your life as varied and interesting as possible.

Don’t just stick to your usual recess routine, change things up as much as you can. No matter where you’re from, there is always something you haven’t done before. It doesn’t need to be anything special, you don’t even need to go anywhere sometimes. Just do something different, even something ridiculous!

Go for a run, sign up to paintball, pull an all-nighter watching bad TV, sit in a park and watch the passers-by, try new food, visit a nightclub, sing in public, go on a day trip, when was the last time you did a cartwheel? Just do something different as often as you can! Even making yourself feel like a fool will provide your mind with new stimulation. 

The creative mind craves new adventures no matter how small or silly they may seem! Be aggressive in seeking out those new adventures so that your creativity expands even further. You’ll come out on top in the end, more confident in your abilities than ever before!

Brainstorming 3: Structuring A Timeline

This is a continuation of Brainstorming 2: Relevant Writing

It All Paints A Single Picture

I may be providing this information a little later than I should have but there’s one thing you should take note of when reading these Brainstorming articles:

All three articles discuss the various aspects of a single process and the advice provided should NOT be considered as advice that should be followed in any kind of chronological order. You should consider all of it throughout the entire brainstorming process. When you brainstorm an idea for a story, you should be considering how the story will be structured while constantly reminding yourself to keep it all relevant.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Timelines.

So What’s A Timeline?

timeline

A timeline is the easiest way to summarize what happens during a set period of time. Rather than offloading a ton of information, a timeline usually only provides the necessary details for someone to understand the primary events that occur during that time period.

Usually a timeline is portrayed with a horizontal line portraying the passage of time. On that line, there are several points marked with dates or times that are considered relevant within that timeline and are often accompanied by a piece of text summarizing what key events occurred during that time. (see image above)

How Does This Translate Into Fictional Writing?

You often see timelines summing up historical events but preparing your own fictional timeline is an excellent way to lay out the path your story will follow before you begin writing. This way, you have a set journey to take your readers on and a clear end in sight.

I tend to write out the events of my timelines as bullet points on a simple word processing tool like Notepad. This allows me to clearly separate the key points of a story like so:

“The Forgotten Seal” Chapter 1 Timeline

  • Introducing the main character (MC), a village boy on his way to work. 
  • He is stopped by a group of boys who beat him.
  • The MCs employer fires the boy for coming into work all beaten up.
  • The MC returns home and fights with his parents over losing his job.
  • The MC runs off into the fields in a fury.
  • The MC discovers a strange seal half buried in the field. 

This outlines the beginning of a potential story. There is little detail provided but the key points are in place for the writer to follow. Since the timeline is only provided as a guideline for the writer, there’s little need to explain the finer points of these events for anyone else. So long as you understand why these events are happening, you can use this guideline to help maintain the solid pace of your story.

At the same time, you may wish to include extra details to answer some of the smaller questions that justify the events taking place. Where does the boy work? Why was he beaten? Why aren’t his parents supportive in his time of need? How does he come across the seal?

Whether you wish to answer these questions in the timeline or not is entirely up to you. It’s essential that you understand everything unfolding on the timeline but it’s also important to keep the timeline summarized and to the point. The more time you spend writing down information you already understand, the longer it will take to finally get writing the story itself.

What Kind Of Timeline Will Help You Most?

There are two main timeline styles that are commonly used and how useful they are is really dependent on your individual writing style.

Chapter Timeline 

The example above is a Chapter timeline and is the most detailed timeline I would consider using when preparing a story. As the name implies, it is used to plan out the events that unfold in a single chapter. It excludes any dialogue but paves out the route on a moment to moment basis.

This timeline is a great support to ensure you maintain the pace of your story but it can cause your writing to be a little rigid. The best writing can come to you while you’re in the moment and the events you wish to write in those moments can contradict what you have written in the timeline. It can even shake up the entire timeline, rendering the next points you’ve prepared useless.

It’s helpful to have guidance ready when writing the story but not as helpful as your own flexibility as a writer. If you adhere too strictly to your timeline when you write, you may not always bring out your best work.

Summary Timelines

On the other end of spectrum you have the Summary timeline which covers the entirety of your story from beginning to end. You may think this will involve a great deal more writing but this is actually the easiest timeline to prepare. It’s also usually the first timeline you need to consider when brainstorming a story.

Rather than listing off every minor event like you would for a single chapter, the aim for this timeline is simply to outline the key events of the story in it’s entirety. At this stage you have the freedom to work out the direction you want the story to progress without the need to fully answer why it progresses that way.

In all other aspects however, the timeline can be structured the exact same way as before:

“The Forgotten Seal” Summary Timeline

  • Introducing the MC.
  • Discovering the Seal.
  • The village is attacked by mercenaries.
  • The MC flees with the seal.
  • The MC befriends a warrior.
  • Some mercenaries catch up to the MC, seeking the seal.
  • The warrior reveals his skills, joins the MC.
  • The MC and the warrior arrive in the city of Tihras. 
  • etc…

As you can see, there are much larger gaps in information for this timeline but it covers a lot more of the story progression than the previous timeline did. It’s clear that the MC’s journey with the Seal will lead to the city of Tihras and he will befriend a warrior on the way but it doesn’t delve into any of the finer details of that journey. There is no indication of how he befriends the warrior or what the mercenaries want with the Seal.

You can choose to plot that out in another timeline or you can allow your writing to flow freely. So long as you cover the key points of your timeline and answer any questions that are raised by the timeline then this allows for much more creative freedom in what you write.

There are, of course, downsides to having such a vague timeline as your sole reference when writing. There is nothing to indicate how long it takes to proceed from one of these events to the next and there can be plenty of minor (but meaningful) events going on between that may slow down the pace of your story. So long as you ensure that the additional events are still relevant to the story however, this shouldn’t cause you any problems.

Other Timeline Styles

Chapter by Chapter Timelines summarize the events of each chapter in a single sentence while Character Based Timelines can be helpful for stories with multiple protagonists, covering the events of a story from their individual perspectives. There’s a variety of other styles you can take on when preparing timelines for your story but these four are the ones I’ve stuck with over time.

That’s not to say there won’t be other styles that are better tailored to your thinking process. Try a few out for practice to see what fits you.

At this stage, you should have the essentials to think up a nifty fantasy or science fiction story. I may come back to brainstorming sometime in the future as well as covering the things to consider when preparing stories in a non-fictional setting.

Keep an eye out for whatever I cover next!

 

 

 

There’s Never A Bad Time To Write

I’m lying in bed with my laptop having yet another recovery day thanks to an unfortunate incident with the sun that’s left me feeling, quite literally, burnt out. On top of that I’m battling a throat infection after just recovering from a stomach bug which is possibly the longest series of ailments I’ve had to deal with in years. I think it’s safe to say that this hasn’t been my luckiest month so far.

On days like these, it can be very easy to lie around doing nothing. If there’s ever a time to justify spending your day in pyjamas (or less) and watch bad TV, play computer games or just scratch your sensitive spots then it’s probably now. Whether it’s sickness, fatigue, laziness, grief or the dreaded writer’s block, how can you possibly hope to produce content that matches your usual standard?

You certainly won’t bring out your best if you’re not feeling your best but that’s not to say you can’t still use that time being productive. When working on larger projects over a long period of time, it’s pretty common for us to pressure ourselves into maintaining a certain standard. All writing revolves around that one project and it begins to feel more like a duty than an expression of our creativity. It’s easy to forget sometimes that writing is something we love, not just something we do.

That mentality is damaging and counter-productive but it’s hard to define the methods that can help you “switch off” without completely abandoning writing for the duration of your recovery…but if you look at things from a different perspective, you may find that this is actually the PERFECT time to unwind as you write.

This isn’t a nonsense piece about “exerting your willpower” or “going above and beyond to achieve your dream.” Maybe I’m just too laid back but I don’t think you’re going to be able to write a heart-wrenching chapter in your upcoming novel if you have to force every word. The writing I’m talking about here is much simpler.

Practising your writing is always beneficial so treat these unfortunate days as potential training days.Lay in bed with your laptop or notepad just like I’m doing now and write whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t particularly make sense. Whether you’re writing an improvised short story, a series of new story pitches that might never get put to use or just your thoughts and feelings, all that matters is that you’re spending some of your day writing.

It might seem like a waste of the downtime that’s been forced upon you but you’ll feel more positive knowing you’ve at least been partially productive with your day. 100 words can feel just as valuable as 1000 words (even if you’re writing completely random nonsense) and doing this daily while you recover eases the pressure a little for when you go back to your professional project. Your health will improve much quicker without all that self inflicted stress too.

Of course, this kind of exercise isn’t for everybody. If you want to do nothing for a day or two then you’re perfectly welcome to it and in most cases, you’ve probably earned it…but if you’re a passionate writer then it can be frustrating and stressful when you struggle to focus on your writing. This exercise should hopefully help you to relieve that stress and come out feeling readier than ever to bring out your best work!

Then again, there’s certain exceptions where this doesn’t apply. If a piano crushed both your hands then you’re totally off the hook.

That being said, how did you click this post? How are you using a computer right now, I don’t underst-

Why Ideas Can’t Be Stolen

“There are plagiarists everywhere and if I share my idea publicly before it’s legally protected then they’re going to steal it from me! Curse those wretched plagiarists!” This is a common misconception among new aspiring writers when they are first starting out that absolutely baffles me.

Let me assume for a moment that you’re one of these writers; You have a new idea and you’re super excited to write it down! It has everything you’ve ever wanted from a story, it has that final piece of the puzzle that other stories are missing and someday, it’s going to become your one-way ticket to success! Congratulations to you for coming up with something so unique! 

Because of this, you absolutely must not share it with anyone! You can’t have people hearing about your idea and you especially can’t have people critiquing it for you. Otherwise, one of them is going to end up stealing it from you and with it, your predestined fame and glory.

There are so many things wrong about this way of thinking yet the subject comes up all the time in the writing community. I’ve discussed the folly of this mindset so many times that explaining it has become like a punishment exercise at school where I just write down the same lines over and over again.

From now on when someone brings up this subject, all I need to do is link them here to explain why your idea can’t and won’t be stolen.

Why You Can’t Own An Idea

First, let’s look at the definition of copyright and what it applies to. A lot of these poor, mistaken creators believe that their ideas will be left out for the vultures if they share them before acquiring some copyright protection. Except copyright protection doesn’t extend to concepts, ideas or expressions.  

This is the definition of copyright:

 

“the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit aliterary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc…

To sum things up, copyright only applies to original works that can be deemed as “completed.” This applies to things such as novels, music, art, news articles, comics, 3D models, computer games and video media. Essentially, if you can sell it as a finished product then it’s yours by right and it’s protected by copyright.

Ideas don’t fit into that category, that’s not a matter up for debate. There is nobody who will buy the pitch without the product. Besides, if your idea only extends so far as the pitch then it’s not as unique as you think…yet.

I’ve discussed this before here but when it comes down to the basic pitch your idea can be made out to sound like anything else. You have an idea for a comedy about a dysfunctional family? Sounds a bit like the Simpsons to me! You want to write about a detective uncovering a conspiracy? There’s a ton of those too actually!

That doesn’t mean your idea won’t someday lead to the creation of something truly epic but while it’s just an idea, there is nothing to show that. The individuality of your story will not begin to show until it’s actually a story! Until then it’s just an idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is.

 Why People Can’t (and Won’t) Steal Your Idea

While you don’t own the idea in the first place, it’s still worth taking into consideration the people who might be influenced by your suggestion. All writers are influenced by someone after all, what’s there to say that person won’t be you?

In that sense, you’re right. There’s always a chance that someone will like your idea and try to write their own version of it. But is that really as bad as you think?

Everyone has their own style of writing and their own unique creative process. If you’ve ever taken part in a collaboration or a group writing exercise you’ll have seen this for yourself. Give a group of writers the same story pitch and tell them to get writing, they’ll all start the story in very different ways with their own style. It doesn’t really matter if someone draws influence from your idea because their story will still turn out completely unique from yours!

Realistically though, that’s not going to happen anyway. You’re only going to get plagiarized if someone tries to pass off your completed work as their own. Nobody is going to plagiarize your idea and put in the time and effort to write it as their own, that’s not what plagiarists do.

If someone is willing to put in that amount of energy into writing a story from scratch by themselves, that’s a writer. Despite what you might think watching the success of J.R.R Tolkien and George R.R Martin, this isn’t the typical industry for people seeking easy fame and money. There’s easier things to plagiarize than a book for quick cash.

Most writers aren’t here for the fame and money. I’m sure a lot of them want it but that’s not why they chose writing as a career path. They’re writing because they have a passion for it, which means they probably have plenty of their own ideas to write about without trying to use yours. What? Did you think you were the only one with a good idea in their head?

Final Thoughts

Stop worrying so much people!  If you’re so confident in your idea then get on with turning it into a story so you can show the world just how awesome it really is!

If you’re having difficulty with that then share it with like-minded people. There’s a ton of communities for aspiring writers just like you who are all going through the same struggles. Let them read and critique what you write and with a bit of luck it’ll turn out better than you imagined.

You can worry all you like about someone stealing your idea but you’re not the only one who thinks their idea is unique. How awesome you think it is is completely irrelevant to the rest of us. Right now it’s just an idea. There’s no story until you make one.

I have no doubt that each and every one of you is capable of turning your ideas into something magnificent but make sure you have your priorities in check and just get on with writing it.

It’s about time you turned that idea into something people would want to steal.