Fermenting Ideas

Writing, especially regular writing like blogging, requires a pretty steady flow of ideas. There are lots of ways to get new ideas every day, but the easiest way is to consume a lot of information and media, and then to do something with your week. Create something for yourself, or do something physically exerting outside. Anything to keep the ideas flowing.

But some ideas sit with you for a while. You may have jotted them down in a little notebook, or it may have been percolating in the back of your brain for weeks or months on end. Some ideas need a little aging before they’re ready to see the light of day.

I try to keep a few things in my back pocket so I have something to talk about on days I otherwise have little to write about, but that’s a different. The ideas don’t really get any better, they just happen to be on deck.

But other things are really getting richer, like 10 year Scotch. I see something on the news, or out in the world, and it tweaks a little detail of a story I’m composing. Or I make a new connection between two disparate pieces of information that were filed in two different boxes in my head.

As writers we need to be able to do both. To think about something for 5-10 minutes, and then be able to write 500-100 words about it. And we have to be able to think for months or years about the same subject, and be able to feel like the material is as fresh as the day we first thought of it, but with all the rich full body, smooth finish and hints of oak we expect from a really well brewed idea.

The risk, especially if you’re not writing anything down, is that you can forget ideas. Sometimes that’s a good thing, just because you’ve been thinking about something for a long time doesn’t mean it should see the light of day. My feeling is if an idea is really something I should write about, I’ll remember it, or I’ll write it that day.

Usually I check in with my longer term ideas in the morning and evening commutes. This can involve visualizing a scene, or incorporating a new piece of information, or debating when I should actually start writing something down. The rest of the day I’m focused on the particular day’s work, but the longer term idea is never far from the surface.

Admittedly I don’t stop and think about this process much. This is just something that’s kinda in my writer DNA. Ideas fall into the two hoppers of long term and short term naturally. But occasionally it can be a good idea to examine your writing process, just to be aware of how you work, and maybe make adjustments as necessary.

In that spirit, how long do you think about ideas before you write them down?

1 Comment

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One response to “Fermenting Ideas

  1. I think you did a good job of explaining how it happens for me. Sometimes I get an idea in 5 minutes and I can instantly write 100 words about it. Or 500. Sometimes a thing sits with me, but I’m not exactly sure what it is that has captured my attention. Over the weeks, or months, more details will be added from my thoughts or things people say. And then suddenly something will come that pulls it all together. A news story for example, and then I’ll realize the story that was sitting in the back of my brain for so long, and whoosh! It all comes out and sounds like I’m some kind of clever, but really, I was fermenting it for a long time.

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