I used to think that I would run out of ideas if I wrote too much. This fear drained my ability to write at times. But it made sense, right? Your mind can only generate so much content in a lifetime, and eventually you’ll just end up rewriting your existing ideas. Or worse, you could hit a brick wall that won’t move no matter how hard you slam into it. Writer’s block could last for days, months, years—and it’s always worse knowing that you’ve actually hit your ceiling than for it to remain a vague possibility looming in the background.
Now that I’ve been writing consistently every day and haven’t run out of ideas yet, I’d like to correct some of my misconceptions. Perhaps you can relate!
Misconception #1: I’ll become a parody of myself.
I had a fear that I would just be rehashing the same ideas over and over. But I haven’t reached the kind of output to qualify for self-parody status yet, not by a long shot. And if I become a parody of myself, so what? At least there’s something to parody, at least I’ll know what I’m all about. So there’s no need to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Just focus on what needs to be written today.
Misconception #2: I need to come up with insanely original ideas.
Nope, not really. There are infinite ways you can tell the same story. I’ve been reading How To Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey, which is a very helpful classic on storytelling, and one section in particular caught my eye:
How many novels could be written on the Samson and Delilah theme? Dozens and dozens. Ever read a story in which a plain but deserving girl finally marries Mr. Wonderful? It has been done a trillion times and will be done a trillion times more.
The key differentiator is not in the idea itself, Frey suggests, but in how the writer executes the idea. Remembering this helped redirect my focus from brainstorming to revising. After all, the real magic happens during the editing process, when the writer demonstrates how their story stands out. Originality comes from execution.
Misconception #3: It’s bad to produce crappy ideas.
Sure, I believe in quality over quantity just as much as the next person, but how do you develop quality? You need to generate lots of crappy ideas first! The more I jot down all new ideas, the more good ideas I get along with the bad ones. And sometimes it’s not even the initial idea that materializes into the final story, but a secondary idea that branched off the main one. Knowing this has encouraged me to keep writing and generating new ideas, even if they don’t go anywhere. You never know when the stars will align.
My Experience With Writing Stories Daily
It all started a few months ago, when I wrote new stories to take my mind off Draft One of my manuscript so that I could revise it objectively. My first few ideas were bad. They resembled half-formed thoughts and I failed multiple times trying to stretch them into stories. But I persisted. I worked on one story for a few days, set it aside and started a new one, then edited the first one after I finished the second one. Rinse and repeat, over and over.
Eventually something interesting happened: my ideas began to get better. My execution of these ideas also improved. I also began to see ideas everywhere: an overheard conversation in a restaurant, a random song lyric that formed the basis of a character sketch. Since I now believed I won’t run out of ideas, I began to see the ideas I would’ve missed if I hadn’t been looking.
Consistency Is key
I tried doing something like this in the past, but I didn’t stick with it consistently. As a result, my ability to ideate turned rusty. Eventually, I falsely believed that I was incapable of brainstorming new and better ideas. But it’s like exercising, really: it’s inefficient to start, stop for a few weeks, and then pick up the dumbbells again. To properly strengthen the writing muscle, I need to keep exercising every single day.
My experience has taught me that you won’t run out of ideas.
You’ll just get better at recognizing and developing them.
Millie’s Note: What’s your experience?