Ever since I was small I’ve found it hard to think in straight lines. At play school sports days I’d think not about winning, but instead about the sweet I’d get to make me feel better if I lost. At school I’d think more about turning the questions into intricate doodles rather than getting them right, and on nights out I’d imagine an elaborate back story to any girl I liked, rather than going over and actually talking to her.
Admittedly this way of thinking hasn’t always turned out for the best.
My head still does it now. I don’t see a brief and think of an obvious solution, I see it and take it somewhere weird and often impractical first. Again, not always the best answer, but a much more fun way of working.
I’ve never found new ideas hard to come by. Instead the thing I find challenging is letting them go.
Recently this has posed a bit of a challenge. I’ve been working on a story for about 6 months now – researching it, planning it, drafting it and plotting it. Normally I’d just go straight into writing it and see how it turned out, but this one felt different. This time it felt like I had an idea that was worth investigating, that could really go somewhere if I put the right kind of work into it.
I got excited. I got a little bit ahead of myself. I got my hopes up.
But then, for whatever reasons, the idea came crashing down. The story became impossible to end and I found myself with characters that just didn’t want to fall into place. Story arcs didn’t match up, plot lines crossed over in all the wrong places, and the outcome I was hoping for had suddenly been pulled out from under my feet.
Months of work – wasted.
When writing is all you do all day, every day, this can come as a pretty big blow. It makes you doubt yourself, it makes you question all the other ideas that are currently stewing in your head, and it makes finding the motivation to try again more than a little bit challenging.
In my day job as a copywriter this isn’t too big a problem. You simply don’t have time to worry, and before you know it the next brief has already landed on your next.
However in my night job as secret agent, horrific monster, ghost, spy, post-apocalyptic child and researcher into the undead, to name just a few, the doubt can linger.
When 6 months of planning get crushed you won’t get another project land in front of you unless you find the enthusiasm to make one up. The only way that enthusiasm will come back is if you let the last idea, sadly, die.
It didn’t work out how you wanted it to and there’s nothing you can do about that. Worrying about it won’t fix it, ploughing forward and proving you can do something better is the only option worth pursuing.
Some dreams need to die.
If they don’t there won’t be room for other ones to grow.