My brain works in mysterious, often not particularly mainstream, ways. Every year, with NaNoWriMo, I sit down with the other writers and, when someone inevitably asks me what I’m writing, I get a response best described as, “Haha, very funny. What are you really writing?” Possibly this is because I’m known for cracking wise. Possibly it’s because I’m bad at describing things when they’re in the early stages.
But, most likely, it’s because, while everyone else is writing the sort of thing that sounds like a proper plot of the sort you’re familiar, I’m sitting there pitching Vampire Santa Claus, Frosty the Coat Rack, talking superhero horses, Justin Beiber clones, brain cells having an existential crisis and sailors punching ghosts in the face (I haven’t even had a chance to tell you guys about those last two yet) and so on. No wonder people assume I’m joking when I describe what I’m working on.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I come up with a lot of ideas that sound really stupid and maybe a bit juvenile, even to me. For a long time, I used to be really self-conscious about ideas like this, squashing them down and forcing myself to work on the stuff that seemed a little more serious, more mainstream. I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring characters and stories that really caught my imagination but I didn’t think were professional/serious/mature enough that I should really be working on them.
2014 was a big year in a lot of ways. Lots of things finished, sold and published. It was my biggest year ever in terms of both quantity and quality and I owe that to a few big epiphanies.
One of these was that I needed to stop trying to squash the weird and embrace the fact that that’s just me, baby! This was a major light bulb moment for me, dumb as it may seem from the outside. It comes down to three things…
- Even if an idea sounds stupid at first, that doesn’t mean the final product will be. Everyone thought making Santa Claus a vampire was a dumb idea. My own mother tried to talk me out of writing it. But everyone loved the resulting play. The lesson? Have faith in your writing ability. Ideas really aren’t that important. In the hands of a good enough writer, anything can be spun into gold. Even if others think your idea is a dud, know that you’ll be able to show them wrong and bring it shining to life.
- It’s OK if ideas seem juvenile. That just means they’re universal. There’s a stigma against content aimed at kids and teens as somehow less than but it’s BS. If anything, the content we digest as kids and teens is more important because it touches us in our most formative years and has the most influence on us in the future. Besides, any creative will tell you, it’s the simplest ideas that are the easiest to overlook or discount and that make the best creative springboards. There’s a reason I love stuff like the Muppets so much. That sweet spot where something’s so universal that it’s entertaining for adults and kids alike, that’s exactly what I want to be writing.
- Don’t fight what makes you unique. That’s your voice! In other words, let your freak flag fly! I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to write the sort of thing I thought I was supposed to be writing to fit into what everyone else seemed to be doing. It’s taken me this long to realize I was going about it all wrong. The weirdo stuff no one else seems to be writing but me is EXACTLY what I should be working on.
One of the biggest reasons for my success this year is that I stopped working against my brain and starting giving myself permission to do the weird stuff. It’s one thing to say that there’s no rules when it comes to writing but it’s another to realize there are rules and limitations we put on ourselves for often stupid reasons.
If a story is calling to you to be written, write it. Do the weird stuff.
(That was really the only way this blog post could have ended.)