So, you've had an idea. What next?
The good news is you've already done a lot of the hard work by having the idea. Now comes the next hard part - expanding on the idea. Before I jump into ideas for expanding on your idea, it's important to discuss why you should expand on the idea, and soon. An idea comes with an expiration date. It's like milk. Yes, you may be able to drink it a few days past its expiration date, but you're playing a hard and fast game. Soon that stuff will sour. My solution is to use almond milk, which lasts considerably longer. I digress. Your idea, too, will begin to sour and fade. That initial excitement you had with an idea will diminish if you do not do something with it. I have notebook pages filled with ideas that I wanted to expand on but never made the first steps. Those pages are idea cemeteries now. If you truly love your idea then you need to act on it.
Okay, so now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's assume you're here with an idea you're excited about pursuing. What do you do with it? Expand on it. After having an idea, this is the first step. This phase of the project cycle is messy, and that's okay, it's supposed to be messy. In fact, if your notes aren't messy, you may be overthinking it. While in this stage, you should set aside some time, and plenty of notebook space to jot down any follow-up ideas. If you're hoping to write a fiction book, start thinking about setting, characters, plots, timeline, or your own Shyamalan twist. If you're writing a non-fiction book, start thinking about what you want to include. In general, some things to think about include the message you want to send, the audience you want to address, and the key principles/tenets of your book.
To give you an idea of my early brainstorming, check out the above image of one page of my notebook. Bonus points if you can decipher any of the words. Some of those notes didn't end up in Lazy Creativity, but that's not the point - the point of this exercise isn't to create a finely polished piece. The goal is to expand on your initial idea. Think of it as a trail; you can follow multiple paths. Some paths are dead-ends, and some will lead you somewhere nice. Eventually we'll know which paths we're going to take, but it takes some weeding out to get there.
My advice is to jot down as many ideas as you can that stem from your initial idea. There are no wrong answers here. Don't think too hard about it. Just write down whatever comes to your mind. We're weeding out the shit (and there will be a lot of it). Don't edit anything. Don't delete anything. Make sketches, doodles, and symbols. Anything you write down may be useful eventually, so word vomit all your good, bad, and ugly thoughts. Share your idea with a friend. Think about it on the bus, in the shower, and in your dreams. I can write a lot about what to do with an idea, but the main thing to do is to just think about your idea a lot. I mean a lot, a lot.
The concept of Ugly Creativity (UC) came to me while I was writing Lazy Creativity, so I was able to expand on it right then, in the moment. Now that I'm revisiting the idea and expanding on it in my next project, I'm back to the ideation phase where I'm jotting my notes, and seeing what sticks. The method that works for me is to set aside idea-expanding sessions where I just jot down everything that comes to mind. The filter between my thoughts and what I write down is as minimal as possible, ideally.
Once the idea-expanding session is over, I'll get up and do something else for a while. That break may last an hour, or even a couple days. That break is important as it lets things simmer. After a while I'll come back to it and re-read everything I put down. This is still not the time to edit or delete. In fact, I almost never delete anything because if there's even a slim chance it'll come in handy down the road, it's worth keeping. I'm also a hoarder so take things with a grain of salt. Now, it's expanding on those ideas. It's following those new paths to see where they lead to. After several sessions of this, you begin to form a clearer narrative and some of the ideas you put down start to stick. Naturally, this cleans things up. Once you have expanded on your initial idea, it's time to start organizing things into a rough outline.
What ideas have you had recently? Let me know!
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