Ideas are everywhere. They are sometimes fabulous and welcome. Other times they come at us unbidden. For instance, I get new ideas flying at me everyday online – ideas for home, fashion, travel, cooking. I get ideas from Pinterest and other sites, and I don’t even have to sign on daily, as they appear randomly in my inbox. Some of these ideas are wonderful. Some are strange and scary things like, “Jenny, new ways to make origami from dinner rolls!” or “Gluten-free, sugar-free, salt-free, egg-free, dairy-free, chocolate-free chocolate-chip cookies!” (Yum.) Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.
As a writer, ideas are my bread and butter (and it’s a damn good thing it’s not my job to totally support the family). But how does one tell a good idea from a bad one? Sometimes I’ll get a great idea for a writing project in the middle of the night, and I’ll scratch it into a notebook I keep nearby for catching such fortuitous thoughts. But are they really fortuitous? Sometimes they are just plain useless and rotten. Sometimes, though, they stand the test of daylight and make me happy.
So maybe that’s one way to tell a good idea, if it stands the test of time. If it doesn’t make you want to throw-up on the notebook you wrote it in and quit writing for all time.
Another way I gauge a writing idea is if I think it will resonate with others. Is it something that will make others think? Will it make them appreciate the little and forgotten gems in life? Will it make them uncomfortable? (This can sometimes be a very good thing.) Will it make them laugh? (Sometimes the best thing of all in our often sad world.) Will it move them in any way whatsoever?
Does it move me? As Robert Frost famously wrote, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
And lastly, will it move my dog? If I read something to my yellow lab, Greta, and she just stares at me, I know it’s probably not a good idea. But if she dons a fashionable hat, some beads and a sandal, and begins to dance around the house in an expression of pure joie de vivre, then I know I’ve stumbled upon something big.
I’ve been reading the book, Moshi, Moshi by the Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto. I’ve also been watching the series, A French Village. It’s a good series with fine acting, but I’m binge watching it late at night, and it causes me to go to sleep with disturbing thoughts of war, Petain’s Vichy Government, and Nazis (all bad ideas).