An idea a day...
To paraphrase Walter Benjamin, I’m squishing a demon. Yes, I am. Alright, Benjamin was writing about unpacking his library – it’s a great essay – but he’s so committed to the effort that I’m hoping he won’t mind the bastardisation too much, because it’s that dedication I want to capture.
Some backstory right about now might be useful. About a week ago, fellow blogger, aspiring novelist, tweeter and friend Sinéad Keegan and I were chatting about story ideas and how some people seem to burst with them. We wondered why that was and quickly agreed that it was surely like everything in writing – a muscle that must be exercised.
Which is when Sinéad had an idea about ideas: what if we were to tweet one story idea every day for 30 days? What would that mean? Could we do it? How good would those ideas be? Would that matter? I agreed immediately.
An hour later, walking home, panic set in. What if I can’t think of anything? What if my ideas are crap? Can I keep it going for that long? What if I can’t think of anything? What if everyone thinks I’m an idiot? What if I can’t think of anything? You get the picture.
I was in full-blown thrall to this little lady…
Yup, everyone’s favourite inner critic is back. She’s actually been pretty quiet lately. Don’t get me wrong, she chunters away in the background, but I have a new game plan. Let her. Embrace her negativity. Say ‘yes dear inner critic, I know I’m a bit rubbish. But each time I revise something, I’m a little bit less rubbish.’
But her favourite thing in the whole world is when I get a bit uppity and start believing I might have an imagination.
Some more back story is necessary. For this we have to go back 25 years to an English teacher telling a 12-year-old she has no imagination. It was a throwaway comment about a terrible piece of creative writing. But bugger me, I was 12 and it was probably a crap exercise. Up to this point I’d written terrible poetry. But I didn’t care. I even drew pictures for each one. They were terrible. I didn’t care. I started writing my Dad a story called The Magic Key. I never finished it, it was probably terrible. But. I. Didn’t. Care. It made me happy. And in one stupid, thoughtless sentence, this teacher killed it for me.
I didn’t write anymore terrible poetry for another eight years because I had ‘no imagination’. I almost didn’t go to university to study English Literature because I had ‘no imagination’ and I definitely didn’t sign up for the creative writing module. After all, who wants to be in a room full of their peers telling you what you already know? Never mind the amazing A-level English Lit teacher who spent a whole year reopening my eyes to how much I loved words. None of that mattered because I had ‘no imagination’.
This is lame. I’m sorry. It is. Whenever anyone asks me when I started writing, I get embarrassed. I want to be one of those people who say ‘since childhood’ because it’s true, but then I have to qualify it with this rather pathetic story. I can’t help it. It seems disingenuous to pretend there wasn’t a 20-year gap between my efforts.
But it’s why this challenge Sinéad set us both is so important. Why I sat there on Sunday night desperate to go to bed, knowing I couldn’t until I came up with my one tweet plot line. I did, with a little bit of a character/setting nudge from Sinéad. It made her laugh.
And it’s why I’m squishing a demon. Yes, I am. Because a week in, I have thought of an idea every day. Some of them might actually work. Some are ridiculous. None of them existed in my head until the day I thought of them. And you know what? It turns out I do have an imagination. Of course I do. We all do. It’s what brilliant about human beings and the desire to tell stories. Maybe some of us find it easier to generate those ideas than others, but the point is we all have the capacity to do it no matter what that critic – internal or external – says. I’m still terrified. We have another 21 days to go but it’s okay because actually we’re having fun and some of our other writing friends are getting involved, too.
So, if you fancy giving it a go, it’s not too late to join in. Just check out #30days30stories and join in the fun. You can also follow other 30 dayers at: @sineadkeegan, @LucyFurLeaps and @emmastrong72