Culling Ideas

A number of sites I’ve seen suggest that it’s good to use any ideas you have.

I think this is a load of crap.


Let me explain: in high school, we had an assignment to write down all of our thoughts for one day (I believe this was to help understand the stream of consciousness style used in ‘Catcher in the Rye.’) I didn’t bother recording half of what went through my head and I still ended up with a full page of, well, drivel. Unassociated ideas everywhere, thoughts that would be incoherent if the context weren’t right.


All sorts of unrelated ideas pass through one’s head throughout the day, more so if one is a frequent daydreamer (I like to think of it as multitasking) or just that creative, and not all of them deserve to be written out.

(Writing down sleep ideas is awful. I got even less sleep than usual the one time I tried it: because I was writing things down, I ended up with a constant flow of new variants rather than one festering idea.)


So, how do you decide which ones are the best?

My version is to think of something and give it twenty-four hours. If I still remember it by the end, it’s clearly memorable enough to deserve an attempt.

Okay, so maybe the twenty-four hour system isn’t for you. Maybe you don’t get enough ideas to casually throw so many away (lucky bastard!), maybe you just don’t want to…. So try this instead.


Before you start writing it all out, flesh it out in your mind: single sentences are nice, but a story built entirely around one is going to collapse: if you’ve ever played Jenga, you can visualize this nicely.

Have I ever written anything based off of one sentence or idea? Yes. Usually, they end up in a little looped paragraph that sounds nice but doesn’t mean anything. Sometimes I get lucky and think of a way to turn it into something bigger…for instance, a book.


Just because it’s sprung into your mind like one of Zeus’ lightning bolts doesn’t mean it’s going to be great.


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