“You can’t have a good idea without having a lot of ideas.”
A cautionary tale: A young, idealistic journalist came up with an idea for a story which he wrote with great enthusiasm and passion and submitted to his editor. The editor read the story, complimented the young man on the style, but said it wasn’t right for publication. The next time the journalist got an idea for a great story, he didn’t sit down and write it, but went to his editor first to tell him about it. Again, the editor gave him a thumbs down. The third time the writer had a brainstorm, he told himself that it wouldn’t work and just let it go.
Sound familiar? It does to me. There are plenty of times I can think of when I’ve censored my own creative ideas for one reason or another. How about you? Sometimes the role of the “editor” who teaches us how to censor ourselves is played by a parent, a teacher or a friend. But whoever our own personal editor is, we learn the lesson well: it’s painful to have someone criticize or belittle our ideas and we the message hits home. Sadly, we absorb these lessons when we’re young and at our most vulnerable, which may be why they have such a powerful negative impact on our playfulness and willingness to explore the world. And why they dampen our enthusiasm and creativity.
As writers who want to grow and improve, we need to trust ourselves and honor our creative inspirations, however fragile they may be or foolish they may seem. Often this requires us to unlearn the habit of self-censorship — not an easy task! How do we get started? Maybe the best way is to simply lighten up on ourselves and give ourselves permission when we write to be impractical or silly or obsessive or unrealistic — to simply follow the arc of an idea that excites us without dismissing it out of hand. Remember: the greatest breakthroughs always appear to be crazy or impossible: by definition, they lie outside predictable or accepted ways of thinking and seeing.
When it comes to ideas, the more the merrier!