Ideas Are Cheap

Sometimes when I tell people I’m a writer, they react by telling me what I should write. I had one person go so far as to say they would give me their idea, and after I wrote it, we could split the profit 50/50. He wasn’t joking. I did not take him up on this “generous” offer.

Some people seem to think that the idea is gold, but it isn’t. Ideas are easy. They can come from anywhere, at any time. For me, they bubble to the surface of my brain when I least expect them, usually when I’m at rest.

Like dreams, ideas are nothing until you start to work on them. Work towards a dream and it becomes a goal. Develop on idea and it becomes a story.

I have spoken with some writers that seem to think the idea has greater value than it does. They hoard their ideas like currency, waiting to spend them at right time. Usually these are people that haven’t actually finished a story yet.

I won’t go so far as to say that ideas have no value whatsoever. I collect them just like everyone else. One idea: a repo man from New Orleans that finds a ghost in the back of a car. That idea had enough value to it that I turned it into an actual novel (with a release that’s super close). Another idea: a possession story written in 2nd person. I developed that into a really creep novelette and, though it hasn’t found a home yet, it’s one I’m really proud of. Another idea: a necromancer that specializes in bringing plants back from the dead, living as a beloved and weird old woman at the edge of a village. It’s an interesting idea, and while I’ve done some outlining, I haven’t finished developing it into an actual story.

I’m not afraid of sharing my ideas with other people because I know that’s not where the magic happens. A truly good story comes from the writer. It’s in their implementation and the way they develop the idea.

If you lock ten writers in separate rooms, giving them the same writing prompt and not letting them out until they’ve finished their story, you’ll wind up with ten completely different stories. That’s assuming you actually provide care and sustenance to the writers. Otherwise, you’ll end up with some partial stories and ten corpses. Please don’t lock us up and starve us.

The true value of a story is not the idea, but the voice, experience, and work of the writer. Give a good idea to a bad writer and you’ll still wind up with a weak, uninteresting story. Give a half-baked, second-hand idea to a good writer and you’ll get something fresh, exciting, and unexpected.

All that being said, if I were to give advice it is this: enjoy your ideas and write them down. Keep track of them. Though ideas are cheap, the value they bring to the writer is the measure of how much they excite you. Just don’t let the ideas sit there. Pick them up and do something with them.