NaNo Lessons: The Crazy Ideas

Wild.  Hair brained.  Weird.  Fantastic.  What the hell are you drinking and can you stop.  You know what kind of ideas I’m talking about.  They’re the ones that creep into your head while you’re trying to write something else.  Something more professional.  Something that actually, you know, makes sense.  These ideas come to us when our brains are too constricted by boundaries that mean well, but aren’t always necessary.

If you’re like me, or any other writer, you get doubts.  You write something off the wall and think, no one is gonna get this, or this is taking it too far.  Those little doubts nibble their way in through the skin and bed down like ticks that turn into wire that turn into fences and before you realize it, they are restricting your craft and imagination.

Well, get out the tweezers and the cigarette lighter, because it’s time to pull those ticks out and kill them dead.

Starting NaNo I had a PLAN.  An outline, one that was logical and cool and had just the right amount of surprises, or so I thought.  Within a week of writing to that outline my brain rebelled.  I got so b o r e d.  Well, okay, I thought.  Let me just scrap it and see what happens.

“Time travel!” my brain screamed.


“And orphans.  And a wagon train.  And throw in that freak lightning storm with the teenage thunderbird.”

“I don’t think–”

“DO IT.”

I rebelled against my brain for a while.  I waffled and poked at the bloated carcass of my outline, all the while falling behind in my word count.  I was so damn invested in that outline, even though I knew and posted that outlines are changeable.  Still.  It bugged me.  I wanted to stick to a plan, to write the right way for once.

And that’s when it hit me.  I had doubt ticks, a rash of them, stuck in me.

Doubt ticks are invasive little critters.  They crawl in the cracks left by insecurity and make a home for themselves.  I wanted to be “professional”.  I wanted to write to a logical formula.

I was trying to write like someone else.

I am a messy person.  A messy writer.  My life and mind is chaos and I don’t make logic leaps, I make intuitive leaps.  More often than not, if I trust those intuitive leaps, I end up being right.  That is me, that is how I work, but I still admire people who are neat and organized and can churn things out with a formula.  But there is a big difference between admiring someone else’s methods and holding them up as The Way I Should Write.

Pulling doubt ticks out is hard.  Setting them on fire is satisfying.  I wrote the weird time travel wagon train with orphans and the angsty teenage thunderbird.  It made no sense for the overall story and will, probably, never see the light of day.  But you know what?  It was FUN.  It was ME.  And getting the idea out on paper put it in the light where I could see all the ways it wouldn’t work, and the smaller pieces that did.

Plus, once that crazy idea was out, it was like clearing the blockage in a stopped up sink.  My writing sessions went smoother.  Ideas –some crazy, some not– flowed through.  Writing through the crazy opened up the other parts of my brain that made the intuitive leaps and produced material that will end up in the final version.

And, through it all, I got a better handle on what my story is really about.


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