Practicing Ideas and Dress-Rehearsal Stories

There is a character in Sandman who gets to the point where he has so many ideas in his head that he can’t write them out, or express them, fast enough. In my case, I have all of these ideas and they each vie to be worked on first: using the energy that I have to focus on one at a time. You know: that energy. It is the energy of vital immediacy and enthusiasm.

The way I think of it, each idea is like a facet of some interesting inorganic material or small components of living substances that need the immediate energy that is inside you to develop them further: to give them the spark of life and order.

And while I do believe in multitasking, it is far easier to multitask when you are doing several different things as opposed to many of the same. At least, that is what I find for myself. I will also admit that there are times when it is more ideal to be able to make the space and time for one particular task as opposed to several others at once.

Of course, there is the other side to it as well. There are the ideas that need time to grow, or those that remain in a kind of fossilization or stasis until enough future energy and knowledge is built up in order to activate it later on. Which brings me to something else I’ve been thinking about lately.

I think one difficulty that I have as a creator is that my mind acts as a kind of cache: I have all of these ideas that I either need to use, save somewhere else in the hopes that they will be activated again one day, or discard completely. If I have too many ideas that I want to work on immediately, I will either slow down or get paralyzed. It also doesn’t help that I have lately been trying to focus on works to send out to places instead of the larger work that my mind is slowly gravitating towards: regardless of my wishes in the matter.

Me and my Head

It does help when I look at the articles and stories that I write on this Blog. I think of them as not only vessels to contain my ideas, but also as “dress rehearsals”: practice sessions of stories that will either become other stories or whose ideas will be added to make something larger and more complex.

Mythic Bios was intended to not only hone my ideas down and let me express and make things I wouldn’t ordinarily have a space for, but to let all of you also get to see as much of the process as possible. I don’t know how successful that might be, but that was the idea anyway. It also occurs to me that once I write my insights about writing and specific works, I tend to forget about them beyond the gist of them. I do classify them to look at later, but I need to find the time to do that.

But I do think I am on to something here and there will be something larger made as a result of all of this: if there isn’t already in some form. Anyway, this is the end of my “thinking to myself” phase online. I will keep you posted, if you will pardon the pun. ;P

When You Reach *That* Point

Have you ever had a really good story idea and just realized that you were not at that level where you can write it out properly?

I have. Many times. In fact, I’m facing something like this right now.

I suppose it’s rather like coming to a level in Legend of Zelda or Metroid where you discover a new chamber or the location of an item but you can’t get at it yet because you haven’t gotten the right tools. Of course, I would make this thought analogous to video games, but another way of looking at it is that you reach a point in your development–at least with regards to one project–where you find a block that you need to somehow get around or realize is a part of what you seek.

There are several different ways to deal with this conceptual challenge. First off, you can research it. You can research the hell out of it. This research can come from books, or the Web, but it can also come from talking with the appropriate people and even doing some journeying.

It can also take some time. I have probably said before that different stories have different requirements. Some stories need a little bit of work, and others have to start as notes, and then a variety of rough drafts until finally you get something that you are looking for. Each draft, even the notes that precede it, is a prototype and each builds the foundation for what you want.

I also find a few other issues to consider with regards to this challenge. The first is dealing with the fear that your idea will be taken by someone who is more versed in it if you don’t use it first. This sounds really irrational, but that fear can be there. The second issue is energy in the form of enthusiasm.

Both issues can be very interrelated. In fact, I don’t really have any easy answers to dealing with them. I suppose all I can say is that after you do the work, you need to find something new to work on, something doable, some small part to do–piece by piece–each day so that the task remains doable in your mind. As for the fear, I suppose I can tell you that no one will quite write something the same way that you will. And they won’t. No one can write like you.

You will also find that ideas can change depending on your creative circumstance and if they don’t work in one context, they can be adapted to another. It might also help to realize that no idea that you ever make is truly original, that you borrow it from someone or somewhere else, but it is how you execute it and how your “accent” or evolving style affects it that is ultimately you.

This post may seem more haphazard than the ones that I usually make and maybe more theoretical. In a lot of ways, it is my attempt to make a conceptual or mental framework for a challenge that I have been dealing with: an attempt to help me focus on a project or two. But at the very least knowing your own limits is very important so that you can either work with them–and perhaps see the block as another angle of a usable idea (I have a friend who liked to always use the infamous quote, “Think fourth-dimensionally” in role-playing)–or know them so that you can potentially surpass them.

I will finish this off, however, by saying this. When all else fails: when research, accepting that you will change an idea by working it, focusing on the doable parts of the project and eventually moving on to the more complex stuff fails then I believe that this–and the subject of this entire post–is all about your own mindset and the need to challenge it enough to simply write down what is in your head: no matter how rough it may be at first. Once you do that, the rest of it will follow, or you simply move on: having learned something.

Whatever that is. 😉