Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Big Fear (About Writing, that is)

On the first Wednesday of each month, many writer-bloggers participate in the “Insecure Writer’s Support Group,” an opportunity to share insecurities and fears with sympathetic souls and offer encouragement to others. I learned about this great idea early in my blogging life, but declined to participate. Not because I don’t have insecurities, but because I have a hard enough time sticking to a schedule. And, what if, on the appointed day of the month, I wasn’t feeling especially insecure? Or what if I was feeling especially insecure on the second Tuesday instead? So I sit it out, except as a reader and commenter.

Which is not to say I don’t feel insecure about writing. Of course I do. I worry that no one will like it. I worry that people will read it and think, “What’s wrong with that guy?” I worry that I’ll never get published, or that if I do, no one will notice. But what worries me more than anything? That I’ll run out of ideas.

To me, running out of ideas while still having the desire to write would be as horrible as watching a favorite athlete take the field when it’s clear that his body is no longer up to what his heart and mind wants. It’s one thing to wake up one day and say, “Meh, I don’t feel like doing this anymore”–if that happens, it won’t matter because I won’t care, right? But without ideas?

And here’s the thing for me: I’m not a big idea guy. I see people all over the internet talking about how ideas are “a dime a dozen.” Even today, over at PubCrawl, Jodi Meadows states “You’re a writer. You have lots of ideas.” Guess what? I don’t. While I do have a document on my computer called “Ideas” (very original, eh?), it’s not an especially long document. And I don’t know that I’ve ever actually gone back to it and pulled something from it and started working on it. I’m also not the sort of writer who generally has so many ideas in his head that he’s not sure which to work on at any given time, or who works on all six (or ten, or twenty-five) all at the same time. As I’ve said before, ideas for me are things that develop slowly, over time, with multiple inputs that coalesce at just the right time. In the past, these ideas have hit just when I’ve needed them, just at the point where I’ve either finished or been close to finishing one project. Maybe my subconscious deliberately keeps things trapped in the back room until it determines there’s going to be enough front room space to deal with it. The fear is that I’ll get done with a project and then…nothing.

I am glad to say that the back room hasn’t stopped working just yet. Though I’m still wrestling my current bear (and actually getting closer to jamming it into its cage), and have a year-old idea I’d like to work on at some point, a new idea came stumbling out of the back room last week. As is typically the case for me, it started with a question, and my question now is, “Could this be The Next One?” We’ll see. I still have that other fat fish to fry first (cheers for alliteration!), but at least the ideas are still coming. Have a great week, everyone.

How about you–do you have a lot of ideas kicking around at a time?

NOTE: It’s not posted yet, but since Carrie put out the call last week for submissions to her Query Critique, she might be posting the query today. Keep an eye on her blog and help a fellow writer out!

8 Responses

  1. Do I have a lot of ideas kicking around in my head? Uhhh… no. I feel like you do. That I'll run out of stuff to write about. In fact, I was talking to my husband at breakfast the other morning wondering what Book 3 of my Ghostly Encounter series should be about when BAM! Something finally occurred to me. You don't know how relieved I was that I came up with SOMETHING!

    Oh, and I immediately wrote it down (so glad I carry around a small notebook) because I was sure I'd forget otherwise. I usually do!

  2. You don't want to know how many ideas I have trust me. It's a skyscraper and let's leave it at that. Congrats on persevering and not giving up Jeff. One or a million ideas won't matter if you don't use them and I am you use yours.

  3. I love when those Shiny New Ideas sparkle! I tend to get my ideas from emotions first – and thankfully, there are enough of those for me 🙂

  4. -Stacey–I AM NOT ALONE! Funny thing, I had *the new idea* in my head on my way home from work and I wanted to pull over and writer things down but I didn't have my notebook. I was afraid I would lose it.
    -Sheena-kay–a skyscraper? Impressive! How many do you work on at a time?
    -Jemi-interesting how different minds work, isn't it?

  5. Bad ideas and re-hashes of others' stories are a dime a dozen. (And that's what most struggling authors write.) But original and "high concept" ideas are a b***h to get. You know, those ones that make readers and publishers sit up and take notice. I'm lucky if I get one once every year or so. Even then, it's not an "awesome" high concept, it's only pretty good. Good enough that I'll write it. I come up with and throw away about 10 other ideas a year. But I have a friend who writes Paranormal Romance and she's FULL of ideas and wrote about 3 books this year. But PR and Romance are standards. They don't need "fresh" ideas. Fans of those genres want the same old story in different wrappers. *sigh* Good luck with you old and new good ideas!! 🙂

  6. What an interesting post! I tend to focus on one idea at a time, but I do have some other ideas floating around. Not many though. I also tend to write slower than other writers, so maybe I am just focused on one thing at a time. Good luck with your writing!

  7. -Lexa–I wonder how fans of those genres would feel about your characterization of them! You do know, of course, that one of my other fears is that I'm writing the same book and same characters over and over again, just with different settings and names.
    -Jess–sounds like you and I have similar…I don't know if 'style' is quite the word here, but it's close enough. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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