As an amateur writer, I am constantly coming up with new ideas for stories or blogs. The note section on my phone is filled with obscure one-liners and vague ideas waiting to be utilized. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a small notebook with me wherever I go, and dashing down whatever ideas pop into my head. Generally, they’re fairly obscure ideas that need to be heartily developed before they even come close to making sense. But sometimes, they’re massive ideas that have so much potential I can’t even believe they’ve come out of my brain. I think one of the hardest things about being a writer is accepting the fact that sometime an idea is simply lacking. It doesn’t matter how much work you may put into it, you can pour your heart and soul into a story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be any good. It’s all about the idea. The idea is the structure that has to carry your words on its back. It’s like a house, without a solid foundation it will crumble, and who can blame it?
While writing a ten-page script for my screenwriting class this semester, I discovered the importance of a strong idea. We were asked to develop the idea for our screenplays in the first few weeks of the semester, and I struggled, finding every idea I developed to be too long-winded or convoluted to fit within the word-length provided. So, I followed the simple path, choosing a more simplistic idea in the hope that I could make it both spectacular, and fit it within the guidelines (the joke was on me when it ended up being five pages over the limit, leading me to spend a frantic three days attempting to cut it down). My story was focused on one key character, Henry. It was basically a four-day story about the terrible life of Henry, a man haunted by the criticism and hatred of his mother, struggling to make his way through his menial life. It’s not until he has a major breakdown on the train to work that he snaps and begins to be present in his own life, no longer letting bad memories of the past stop him from living.
As I said, my idea was simple. This simplicity was reflected in my feedback, where my teacher questioning the motivation for Henry’s sudden change of attitude. At first, I was insulted, I’d put almost a month’s worth of work into this ten-page fiend and my teacher is now telling me he doesn’t get it, seriously? But then I thought about it, and yeah, I put a lot of work into the assignment, and the writing was good, really good actually (not to toot my own horn, but after a month of work it had better be good, right?) but it wasn’t the writing that my teacher was commenting on, it was the idea. Henry’s story seemed unrealistic because it was. The idea itself was flawed and there was no way to fix that besides changing the entire concept.
I think there’s a kind of clarity in realising the importance of an idea. We all know that you can’t please everyone. Some people may love your work and other may hate it, but usually that can be chalked up to the fact that this world is made up of billions of people all of which have very varied opinions and preferences. For me, accepting the importance of the idea has taught me to doubt myself less. Previously, when getting bad reviews or feedback, I used to doubt my writing, spinning myself into a self-deprecating hole and telling myself that the only way to improve was to focus on the words themselves. But this isn’t necessarily true. It’s clear to me now that sometimes it doesn’t matter how brilliant the writing is if the idea is complete and utter trash.
Originally posted on annablackie.com