On the Challenges of Getting Ideas Out of Your Head and Onto the Page
I’ve got an unmanageable number of random thoughts and ideas on my mind these days, and I’m having a hard time getting them out. I imagine them as an eclectic and diverse crowd hanging out at a fancy-dress cocktail party. They mix and mingle, engaging in idle conversation until it’s time for me to sit down at the keyboard. Then, it’s as if someone has pulled the fire alarm or set a pack of ravening wolves loose amongst the champagne flutes and canapés.
My more timid ideas skitter off into dark corners where they disappear in the shadowy regions of my mind, slipping into rarely used rooms, and fading into forgetfulness. They remain holed up in their solitary bunkers until I’m standing in the shower or driving down the highway, and they emerge, confident that they will not be forced to share themselves too deeply while I am otherwise occupied.
Other ideas stay stubbornly where they are, lounging next to the piano or leaning on the bar, flatly refusing to even attempt an exit that will allow me to render them in words on the page. This lot are infuriating. Whether they are slouching with an air of being too cool for school, or disdainfully ignoring my presence, they taunt and tease me with their potential while artfully blocking my every attempt to engage them in conversation.
The rest of my thoughts and story-starters – the less timid and more enthusiastic –take one look at that blank page and plummet into a state of total chaos. All together, they make a mad dash toward the one tiny escape hatch that leads from my brain to the page. They could easily get out if they would only form a neat and orderly, single-file line; but that seems beyond them. Instead they rush about in an unruly manner, colliding into each other at the hatch, trying to fit through two and three at a time and essentially plugging things up so badly that no one gets out.
Maybe it’s my fault. It must be my fault. It is, after all, my head. I suppose I have not yet honed my hostess skills to the requisite level. I must need to get better at teasing out conversations and subtly manipulating my “guests” into doing what I want them to do. To be honest, sometimes I want to leave the party – sneak away out into the garden and just be by myself; but my thoughts follow me wherever I go. They are nothing if not persistent.
Perhaps I should just be grateful that I have so many ideas to play with, even if they aren’t as cooperative as I would like. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun, I suppose, if they were docile and well behaved. That would be boring and predictable. That would leave me completely uninspired. I’ll just have to eventually learn how to single out one idea and deftly lead that thought gently to the escape hatch and out into the wide world. Until then, I’m going to try to enjoy the ebb and flow of the party. Cheers!
Books I’m Reading:
First of all – good news: I found my original copy of If You Want to Write – A Book About Art Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland! Thank you to everyone who commiserated with me on the temporary loss of this old friend, and especially to those of you who went out of your way last week to suggest methods I might use to track down a suitable replacement copy. It was lovely to be among readers who understood my angst.
Happily, after eight months (ever since my daughter and I moved) of enduring the nagging thought of a misplaced book, I discovered my copy of Ueland’s fabulous tome on writing tucked into a small stack of books that I must have been reading when we moved in. I had forgotten about that stash after starting two other, more easily accessible stacks of “being read” books. I felt a little foolish, but mostly I just felt relieved and delighted. The temporary separation has made my reunion with this favorite that much sweeter, and my re-reading of it that much more enjoyable. Hurrah!
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Another book I’m currently reading is also a re-read. I first read Salman Rushdie’s Luka and the Fire of Life to myself on my Kindle. This time around, I am reading it out loud to my daughter via the Kindle app on my iPhone. Although she gave up the routine for a while, my twelve year-old daughter is back to having me read to her at bedtime. I couldn’t be happier.
Luka and the Fire of Life is the follow-up to Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Both tales are full of magic and strange beings, adventure, discovery, and humor. Here is a brief description from Rushdie’s site:
“The adventure begins one beautiful starry night in the land of Alifbay, where a terrible thing happens: Luka’s father, Rashid, the legendary storyteller of Kahani, falls suddenly and inexplicably into a sleep so deep that nothing and no one can rouse him. To save him from slipping away entirely, Luka must embark on a journey through the world of magic with his loyal companions, Bear the dog and Dog the bear, as they encounter a slew of fantastical creatures, strange allies, and challenging obstacles along the way—all in the hopes of stealing the Fire of Life, a seemingly impossible and exceedingly treacherous task.”
I am so enjoying reading this book out loud. Rushdie’s language is made for it. His descriptions sometimes leave me gasping for breath (as in, I’ve run out of air), but they are perfect – so natural and so vivid. And, his dialog is also fabulous. It’s a joy to read it because it flows so easily off my tongue, and I can’t help but “perform” the words because of how skillfully Rushdie conveys tone, personality, and inflection.
I am sorry that my daughter is away this weekend (with friends and with her dad). I will miss journeying with Luka and his friends for the next few nights, but I know we’ll be back in the land of magic soon!
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Another book I just finished reading to my daughter is T.S. Livingston and the Mystery at Madame Molineaux’s. This is the first in a series by author Violet Selborne. I’m pretty sure I picked this up as a free download via BookBub, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, it was an enjoyable read. My daughter has already asked repeatedly whether there is a “next book” in the series yet. (There isn’t, but it seems more are planned.)
I struggled a little with grasping the era of the story. Though I know it is set in the past, I’m never quite sure how far in the past, and the dialog between the group of boarding school girls has a fairly contemporary style and tone to it. I would have liked more clues as to the temporal setting through language, clothing, customs, etc. Other than that, it was a fun story with plenty of cliff hangers (which routinely had my daughter begging for “just one more chapter”), red herrings, and spooky locations around the school. I look forward to another adventure with Maddie and Jo Livingston.
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- 12 Things I Noticed While Reading Every Short Story Published in 2014–15 by @lucekel
- One Skill that Will Take Your Writing from Good to Great by @kellyexeter
- Writing Wednesdays: Cover the Canvas by @SPressfield
- How to Write a Lead Paragraph that Wins Readers’ Attention by Jeff Elkins
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- Someone’s making money off your copyrighted content (But it isn’t you) by @kerrygorgone
- The Ultimate Guide to Email Design Best Practices for Marketers by @imkevin_monk
- Blogs Should Be Conversation Openers by @lilachbullock
- Time to face the music: you need a business model to make it as an artist. by @jccabel
- The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them) by @james_clear
- How to Write a Good Story: You’ll Love This Simple Method by @TalValante
- Every journey starts with one step. by Jon Westenberg
- Invest in Yourself by @DanBlank
- What’s Your Big Idea? by @bernadettejiwa
- Don’t find your passion. Grow It. by @jccabel
THE WRITING LIFE
- How to Get Back On Track When Your Writing Plans Go Awry by @aliventures
- 3 Pages Every Morning:Why I Started a Daily Ritual & How I Stuck With It by Matthew Trinetti
- How to Work Alone via @99u
- The Case for Journaling by @barbaraoneal
- Real Writers Need a Community: yes, that means you by Bex Vankoot
- Actually, All Writers Steal by @RufiThorpe
Sundry Links and Articles:
The Qwerkywriter is completely unnecessary, but totally lust worthy. Its aluminum-metal construction, vintage-inspired key caps, and mechanical switches, it’s a retro writer’s dream keyboard. I mean, I love my Apple products, but the Qwerkywriter has undeniable style and flair. It has a vibe that is part steampunk, part techno geek, and part homage to the writers who hacked out their classics on actual, honest-to-goodness typewriters.
I have no affiliation with this company, and I have no plans to plunk down the $349 required to own one of these babies, but my writer’s heart just had to gush a little. I mean, seriously, check it out in combination with Tom Hanks’ Hanxwriter app:
Pretty cool, right?
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page, remembering to enjoy the magic of stories, and indulging your writer’s heart in whatever way inspires and cheers you. Enjoy!
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.