(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)
With my eighth book out, I figured I’d talk about how I actually write. After doing a lot of self-publishing, it struck me that “hey, others could benefit from this” and “I may learn talking with others.” I probably could have thought of that earlier, but I guess I was too busy writing. Which is probably something else I should write on.
Anyway, in the spirit of reaching out to fellow writers, here’s how I write.
Please note that:
- I am focusing on my style of nonfiction. It might not apply to fiction except in the abstract.
- It’s a focus on books – since thats where my head is right now. You may be able to apply these lessons to other things.
Now, let’s talk about where my ideas fome from.
Inspiration: The Bolt Of Lighting
A good book starts with an idea. A bad book does as well, but I assume you’re not trying to write a bad one. Not deliberately, but let’s face it, I’m not going to judge you.
So where do I get my ideas? They come from everywhere. I rarely lack inspriation – and if I do, I usually can find a way to stimulate it. This is because of my work studying inspiration, writing generators, and creating. I’ve got a groove from sheer practice – and in time, you’ll develop one as well.
There are a few tips I can share:
- * First is to be open to ideas. Don’t just reject hem.
- * Seek experiences that inspire you. If you’re not inspired, your life may be too routine.
- * Regularly do things that require inspiration – that aren’t writing. My job managing, the work on the sanctum, all of that means my inspiration isalways being honed.
For me, ideas are striking me all the time. Wether you have a lot or a few, an idea is an idea. One of them might be the Big Idea, the book, the one you have to do.
Wether the latest inspiration you have is The Big Idea, or might be, you have to record it. This is where things start taking form.
Recording: The First Step
Over the years I’ve emphasized the need for creative people of all kinds – and by that I mean most anyone – to keep a Brainstorm Book. The Brainstorm Book is where you write any idea that remotely seems worthy of keeping track of.
At this point, you’re already processing the latest inspiration. Maybe you flesh it out, maybe you drop it, either way the simple act of writing it down (and trust me, write it don’t type it) helps you process it a bit further. You may, in writing it down, suddenly realize a vision for it – and suddenly it’s The Big Idea you must make.
Be sure to record the idea in as much detail as possible – but don’t pressure yourself. One sentence that’s inspired may say far more than a paragraph you forced.
OK, so you recorded it. Recording it made you think it over a bit, so the idea is a bit more polished, a bit more understood, and recorded in a way that’ll call back the inspiration. The act of recording it might have even led it to become a Big Idea.
But with so many ideas, what do you do? Well, if a Big Idea isn’t something I must work into my plans (and sometimes it is), I review the Brainstorm Book.
Reviewing: Looking Back
Once a month I review my brainstorm book, seeing what ideas stand out. Depending on their quality I may:
- Decide they’re not worth it.
- Decide they might be worth it and put them in a series of computer files to capture given inspirations -book ideas, column ideas, etc. I review these files whenever I add something or feel bereft of ideas (which, admittedly, isn’t often).
- Decide the idea might be worth it – then I put it into an “incubator” file that I also review once a month. This is for ideas that might be worth doing but I don’t have a plan quite yet. Sometimes things go out of the incubator file. This is for the “might be a Big Idea”
- Decide I “This is a Big Idea” and figure I’ll do something with it.
The act of reviewing – and reviewing regularly – is important, and not just for selecting Big Ideas. It can also inspire you by seeing your ideas in a different context. New ideas may flow, new inspirations may come, patterns emerge. Sometimes new Big Ideas form just from the act of reviewing.
So finally, I’ve got a lot of ideas. Hopefully I’ve got a Big Idea to develop into my next book, right?
Nope, I usually have several. I have a pile. Sometimes I even have a few ideas that I want to do in order.
Or maybe I do have a Big Idea – but do I really want to do it?
Well, next up, let’s talk how I select ideas to work on.