The Idea Goblin

Remember what I said earlier about being totally into the project I have been writing in longhand? Well, yes and no. I realized that something just didn’t feel right about it. I felt forced. I really enjoy the act of writing (on good days) and I realized that I was just making myself go through the motions, which isn’t always a good thing. So I retreated back to my journal, which was good because then I got to sate my writing fix without all the obligations of creating a coherent fictional storyline. All this journal writing must have unblocked something in  me, because last night I had a bit of a light bulb moment regarding my weird state of semi-writer’s block…

I had always thought that this had more to do with the post-NaNo blues than anything, but now I know what the real reason is: the Idea Goblin.

The Idea Goblin has stolen all of my story ideas. He squirrels them away in a big burlap sack that he has to tie on the top to prevent them from slipping away and escaping, which is a very big possibility, since ideas tend to be very squirmy and sneaky. However, the Idea Goblin is pretty sneaky himself. He is so good at snatching ideas that sometimes you don’t even know that you had them in the first place. He just uses his long, pointed, skinny fingers and just plucks the ideas out of the air, long before you can see, smell, touch, hear, or taste them. This is why so many people say things like, “Oh, I’d love to write a story, I just never have any ideas.” Other times, he is bold and snatches them right out of your head. He grabs one end of the idea and pulls it right out of your brain like silvery dental floss. You would think that most people might have a problem with this, but the Idea Goblin has a very reliable method of convincing you that your thoughts and ideas really aren’t very good anyway, so then you don’t mind giving them up.

Even after all that, though, you have to realize that the Idea Goblin isn’t such a bad guy. He likes ideas just as much as you do, it’s just that he prefers them in their fresh, truly hypothetical state. The process of turning a lemony-fresh idea into a well-developed and multi-textured finished work can be pretty brutal and he hates to see them being  bent and stretched and plucked and pumped up. He prefers them to stay little, cute, and perfect, rather than all grown-up and battle-scarred. I have to admit that there is some appeal to collecting perfect, bouncy little ideas, but we all know that that doesn’t give us much to do as writers.

One’s relationship with the Idea Goblin can be carefully managed. The Idea Goblin does need some ideas for its emotional survival, but he doesn’t have to have everything. He’s just very greedy and a tad insecure, so he can come off as a little demanding sometimes. All you need to do is just agree that he can have some of your ideas, but not all of them. If you have felt blocked for awhile, then he most likely has his fair share of ideas for now and you can feel free to keep everything for yourself for now.

What comes next?

When did I start micromanaging my stories and my characters? When did I start wanting to know exactly what was going to happen next?

I wasn’t always like this. I used to be one of those writers who lingered at the other extreme–insisting on not knowing anything that would happen in the plot until I sat my butt down and wrote it. And then I started getting obsessed with plotting things down to the most minute detail.

It’s frustrating, really. I need to learn how to work with my stories. Problems come up, that’s just how it’s going to be. Instead of resisting the flow of the story and attempting to mold things back to what my original intentions were, I would just kind of ride the wave and see what would happen.

I’m starting to realize that so much of writing involves not just the self-discipline of putting your butt in the chair, but also the willingness to let go of your preconceived notions and allow the people in your head to do what they want to do and get into trouble.

My progress so far…

Well, I know I keep saying that I’m not going to edit myself as I write, but I was starting to feel like things just weren’t right, like something intrinsically wasn’t working with my characters. I felt like I was controlling them, which is not what I want to feel like when I’m writing. I want to feel like my characters are these slightly willful living people who are letting me come along for the ride.

I felt too much like a puppet master. So I decided to switch things up a little and really expand the world that I was writing about. I’m doing an urban fantasy, so some additional worldbuilding was in order. After expanding things a little and making some changes here and there to my “rules” and such, the story line just kind of opened up to me.

Then I started making my plot cards, about thirty or so. This process is pretty loose. I don’t feel constrained by this rough outline. It’s more like a list of things that I want to happen. So, I’ve got that going for me, which is good. 🙂

As I’ve said before, I’m working on a story right now. I’m calling it a “story” because I’m not sure how it will fit into the plot. That’s ok, though. I’m trying to keep things loose and organic and kind of see how they shape up from there. I have an idea of the direction I’d like to go in, so I think I’m in good shape.