LIAN TANNER

The first idea is hardly ever the right one

October 13th, 2019

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing with ideas for a new story. At one point I had several ideas on the go, and I couldn’t choose between them, because they all interested me but none of them stood out. So I randomly chose one of them and started playing around with it, finding pictures that might go with the characters, and thinking about possible scenes.

It was a nice idea, but I couldn’t get really excited about it.

So I started scribbling down some other possibilities, most of them to do with the main character, Josie, and why she was so unhappy, and what might happen when the goats arrived.

Over five days I wrote pages and pages of thoughts with circles around them and lines going to other circles, and arrows and speech bubbles and exclamation marks and the occasional drawing. I pushed that first idea in different directions, and threw other ideas at it to see if they’d stick or bounce off. I forgot about it for a couple of hours while I did some gardening, then went back and looked at it again.

I scribbled a bit more. And suddenly I found myself laughing out loud. A laugh of discovery. The sort of laugh that means, ‘Yes, that’s wonderful! That’s where it’s supposed to go!’

Most ideas seem to need pushing like this. I don’t think I’ve ever had an idea for a story that was wonderful right from the beginning. Wonderful needs work. Wonderful needs nudging and poking, and letting your imagination fly off in weird directions. Wonderful needs patience.

So now I’ve got an idea that’s a fair way from the original one, but it’s got me excited at last.

Push your ideas, people. Don’t be satisfied with the first one. It’s hardly ever the one you’re looking for.

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