When waiting for inspiration is procrastination

While this post is about fiction writing, I think it contains much truth about commercial writing and how a real professional will go about doing his job for a client. Go read John Scalzi’s blog entry where novelist Marcus Sakey confesses, “I don’t have big ideas.” What he says is quite insightful for anyone who makes a living or who wants to make a living writing:

What I have instead is a string of little ideas. Observations about a situation, bits of dialogue, a flash of character. Incomplete notions rather than perfectly formed a-ha! moments.

Obviously, by the time, you have completed a project, you have to have articulated notions that are no longer incomplete. But you have plenty of time for that in the four stages of production.

(Oh, I haven’t mentioned the four stages yet? I like to use the acronym ASAP because deadlines are, well, deadlines. ASAP stands for:

  • Amass data.
  • Shape your research.
  • Author your content.
  • Perfect your content.

See, you get to wait until “P” before everything must be, duh, perfect.)

The problem happens when you lack confidence to start. If you are paid on a contractual basis, almost certainly your client isn’t counting on you billing him for time spent looking out the window. You have to start producing ideas right away.

So be satisfied with small ones. As you amass data by research and shape it into an outline, you will surely find your better ideas growing while shedding the ones that were never that promising. By the time you are done you will find that you gained inspiration through the process.

On the other hand, if you expect to find the magic bullet before you begin, it is likely you may never get started.

  1. Starting small is a good suggestion.

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