There is always an idea somewhere.
I am serious. In fact, many creatives that I know have way too many of them. And they really don’t have to be brilliant ideas to be worth developing. Especially writers tend to overthink the process of actually becoming active, though. Writers aren’t writers yet if they don’t actually DO it. The writing, I mean. Just like painting, writing is something that demands practise. Of course you need to come up with an idea, research, explore characters and worlds – but much too often all those things keep us from facing our true enemy. The blank page.
Someone who always keeps polishing an idea until it’s perfect might very well never actually write their novel, short story or poem. Or someone like me might be too busy toying with the idea of how exactly to set up a blog instead of actually starting to write it out. There is this totally understandable desire for being safe. But as a writer you should want to strive for danger. Your idea becomes polished all by itself if you let it. That by no means is to say that you don’t have to sweat blood and tears for it, that would be an outright lie. BUT if you get started with just a premise and a vague idea where you want to head with it, there is still plenty of time to let your characters show you the ropes while you are already writing. Let’s face it, your first chapter will suck. For most people even the first book is gonna suck. Setting up a whole library of notes and research is not gonna save you from desaster. We’re all headed for it. So let me repeat, the desire for safety is understandable, but should stay just that. A mere desire.
Even if the first book sucks then you still learn loads on your journey from chapter one to the final page. You don’t need to throw it away just because it isn’t perfect. Treat this bad book like the crippled drawing of trees that Mom used to pin to the fridge. They are your baby steps. If you still like the story and characters at the end of this first book, then chances are you can work on it. You can grow a stable, healthy tree out of the small crippled first one. The sucky book then becomes your first draft.
And if you don’t like the story and characters anymore … it is still a cause for celebration. YOU FINISHED SOMETHING! You have conquered this book and now you are a better writer for it. You developed a style, you fought the writing slump monsters (for they will happen to the best of us) and you learned how to wrap the whole thing up and STOP. If that is not cause for cheering then I don’t know what is. All those bad pages you had to get out of your system, they are the steps you climb to level up your next project. And if you finished one, believe me, you can finish another. Live dangerous, be scared, but please, give those ideas in your head what they deserve: to grow up and become stories.
DISCLAIMER: I am still working on that one, so anyone who reads this is allowed to send me virtual asskicks if they like. I want to be true to my own advice. We all get caught up in our own heads a lot of the time. I am working on the same project for the second nanowrimo in a row.