Don't Ration Out Your Ideas

I love this piece of advice from Benjamin Percy, which is featured in the latest bulletin from Glimmer Train. It’s one of those things I wish all writers could learn right away:

Most writers are conservative. By that I mean they lock their best ideas in a vault and take pleasure in the richness of their stores, like misers with their money. Maybe you have Moleskines full of hastily scribbled notes. Or a corkboard next to your desk messy with images, structural blueprints, articles ripped from magazines. Or at the very least a folder on your computer labeled Stuff.

For every story or essay or poem you write, you withdraw one image, two characters, maybe three of the metaphors you have stockpiled—and then slam shut the vault and lock it with a key shaped like a skeleton’s finger.

I used to be the same way, nervously rationing out my ideas.

Click here to read the full piece, and find out why you should go ALL IN.

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6 thoughts on “Don't Ration Out Your Ideas

  1. Tom Bentley

    I remember reading a quote about Nabokov from a friend of his, who said that he’d met the author in passing, and that Nabokov had a sheaf of newspaper personals ads in hand and said to his friend, "Marvelous ads!" Great writers soak up their experiences, from everywhere and every angle, and then spill them out again.

    I really do think the bucket fills up after it’s emptied out, and the water is fresh.

  2. Florence Fois

    Thanks for this post, Jane. There is a passage in Franny and Zoey by Salinger where Buddy is talking to his brother Zoey on the phone and he tells him a story about a screen writer friend. Or it could have been Zoey telling Franny why he is so depressed and fed up with the "business." The message is clear regardless. Excuse if I paraphrase:

    "He kept writing the same thing and became a hack. Instead of going home and letting himself fill up again."

    The lesson he wanted to convey is that sometimes you need to be quiet in order for the muse to fill you up once more.

    Thanks.

  3. Rima

    This is sooooooo true! I find that I start off trying to ration out my ideas, but end up throwing it all out there anyways, because I don’t want my writing to "partially rock" — I want it to FULLY rock! Terrific advice for any writer.

  4. Patrick Thunstrom

    I really need to commit this one to heart. I have a number of pieces of inspiration that come from experiences that hurt me, but I’m afraid of using them for fear of sounding bitter, cynical, or critical. I may need to give up and find ways to use these thoughts for a better purpose.

  5. Newton Saber

    Totally agree. Put it all out there. Use everything you have, every time you write. If you’re going to write, take some risk. However, don’t just say things to shock people. Make sure it all makes sense.

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