Yes, the ideas can come out of thin air. They just materialize, and then it is up to a writer to develop them immediately, let them rest and maybe get a more definitive shape and form, or just abandon them.
As a writer abandoning an idea could only come for one reason. You rushed and overburdened it things that don’t belong there - a character that is out of place, an event that doesn’t seem plausible an over-elaborate description. Basically too much too soon. The writer overproduced.
And what is the sign? The Doobie Brothers. Or to be precise, their lead singer and keyboard player Michael McDonald and his smoothly polished white soul song I Keep Forgettin’. There’s that (Every Time You’re Near) addition in the title, but then, while writing it could be any distraction.
Actually, when you get stuck in your words, when there is an overproduced jumble on your screen, paper, or whatever, you lose YOUR plot, and you start being under the impression that you are forgetting something. You are not.
Your idea was not developed properly, it has not matured fully yet and you’re attempting to cover it in too many words. It becomes an excuse, like in Forman’s “Amadeus” when Salieri suggests to the Austrian emperor why he shouldn’t like Mozart’s music “too many notes”. Unfortunately, in this case, it is for real. Too many words.
If you leave your text like that, it is just a pile of uncontrolled gibberish. You might feel sorry, for them, after all, it is your gibberish. Still, they got to go away.
What you have to make sure is that your idea is a coherent one. Coherent ideas bear coherent writing. Every word then sits exactly where it should be, there aren’t too few or too many of them. The text takes the shape and form, where you actually can’t keep forgetting’ anything.
And it might be one of the better moments to play that Michael McDonald song. And Mozart. Not at the same time. One after another is fine though.
Sebastian Lindemann wrote recently in “Uxdesign.cc” that we should all, writers included, embrace idle mind which will lead to higher creativity. Personally, if I try to see whether a theory works, particularly if I agree with it like I agree with this one, I try to see if there is a musical example.
And sure enough, there’s one, and quite a good one at that. What better than Otis Redding “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”, where his ‘wasting time’ actually brings about some deep perceptions about his life. Otis probably did exactly what he says in his lyrics and that boredom, idleness, or whatever about him the conclusions he made, maybe even the lyrics and the music to the song itself.
And here I’m off in a somewhat different direction. So as a writer, in a situation where your mind, through idleness, or otherwise, comes to an idea, what do you do? Do you trust your ‘brilliance’ and write it down immediately or do you sit down first and do a detailed think and re-think before you commit anything to paper?
This time around, it might be good to recall one of Bob Dylan’s best ballads, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. Or re-formulated, “Don’t give it a second thought, just write it down”?
Maybe, but maybe not, no matter how trite it sounds. On one hand, it could really be a flash of brilliance, a stream of conscience that brings about exquisite writing, or on the other, pure gibberish that you should throw into the trash, real or electronic, doesn’t matter.
Dylan himself wrote (hopefully he still writes) in those flashes. Music journalists often mention the legendary conversation between Dylan and Leonard Cohen, as recounted by Cohen himself, where Cohen asks Dylan how long it took him to write the lyrics for a certain song (it escapes me which one it was) and Dylan answered: “Ten Minutes”. He then poses the same question to Cohen asking him how long it took him to write “Hallelujah”. Cohen answered: “A month I said. I lied. It took me a year”.
So it all depends on how formed your idea is. It can flow easily and you can have a formed piece of writing in no time, or it can have a series of veils and layers that you have to peel or take off until it is truly formed and ready.
Whether you need to sit by a slowly flowing river and clear your mind, immerse into thousands of words of others, it makes no difference, as long as the idea for your writing is clear and fully formed. I agree with Sebastian Lindemann that some idleness will certainly help.
“Start Me Up”. Not one of the greatest Rolling Stones songs, but surely better that thousands and thousands of others. So I see no shame in borrowing their title when setting out thoughts about working as a freelance writer for Startup companies.
A few days ago somebody said that being a freelance writer is like having a startup company. Very true, even though these days everything is being lumped under the tag start-up. Still, let’s stick to the basic idea behind the startup, a company that is ‘starting up’ and is searching out all sorts of methods to finance the idea that gathered together more than one (or just one?) person behind it.
The only difference I see is that for a freelance writer practically every new project is like opening up a startup all over again. Unless, of course, he is being asked and gets a contract for a long-term or an ongoing project.
But then, another question comes to mind. What if that long-term or ongoing project is being offered by a startup company?
Well then, ABBA and the stock market concept come into play. ABBA, who seem inescapable in music, whether you like them or not, had that hit (wasn’t everything they recorded a hit?) “Take A Chance On Me”. As if they were inviting people to roll the stock market dice.
And writing for startups as a freelancer is in a way like playing a stock market — if they hit it big, you can be in for a lucrative writing deal for a while. If they sink (usually very quickly), there is a good chance you will never see the reward for the work you have done. In a way, you become one more investor into an idea that could go either way.
But then, you are always in a situation to make some choice or other and as in any kind of a gamble, after a while, the odds even out. The Rolling Stones and ABBA seem to be the only all-time winners…
As a writer, freelance, novelist or as a member of a staff somewhere, rejections should almost be a part of the daily routine. They will keep on coming, no matter what - whether you have made a name for yourself or you are just starting out. And it can by anything - the novel you consider your life’s work which you have been tweaking for years or a routine batch e-mail or newsletter, that turns out not to be so routine.
And the reasons for rejection? Does it matter? The thing is, no matter how routine it becomes it is still unpleasant and will put a small bump, dent or a large crater in your confidence.
Of course, it is easy for somebody to say, suck it up, it is not their work and confidence in question. And as far as you are concerned, that might be the perfect moment to put on that absolute soul masterpiece from 1972 by The Staple Singers: “Respect Yourself”. It is not only a great song but a perfect advice for that very moment.
So, what then? Easy to say, but sitting down and recounting all the acceptances and rejections you got, and at some point, they start evening out and some kind of balance is made.
But then you should make yet another recount. Try to list all the good reasons and the bad ones why this rejection came about and all the good and bad outcomes as well. Somehow and for some reason, those seem to even out too.
The key here though is to draw your strength from all those good reasons and outcomes, but certainly not forget and always have in mind all those bad ones. They'll always come in handy. As will the Staple Singers and their sage advice.
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