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In a book by Lloyd Alexander (The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen), someone says, “You must know nothing before you can learn something, and be empty before you can be filled.” Are you empty? Should you be?
Often when I’m in the middle of writing a story, I will learn something or get an opportunity to learn about something (say, tips on how to make your dialogue better, or exercises to improve your description). When this happens, I freeze. I have a moment where I consider scrapping my entire project and starting over when I’ve learned the said something. Sadly, after this moment, I usually go, “Self, you are right”.
Why? Because I don’t want to waste the idea.
If I wait like my subconscious wants me to, I will be able to use the idea (which I believe is pretty good) when I’m better and thus have an actual use for it. If I write the story now, I will use up the idea on a mediocre substructure. If you will, I don’t want to put my new wine into old wineskins.
That kind of reasoning is based on one assumption or maybe even a fear. That there is a scarcity of ideas, and that nothing should be wasted. While this is good advice for most things, ideas aren’t one of them.
Ideas are a scarce as sun in South Africa. Ideas are everywhere. Someone once said that everyone walks past a thousand story ideas every day, and that the good writers see maybe five. But I think if you don’t let go of the ideas you’re keeping for later, you’ll be so preoccupied that you don’t see any new ones (which then aggravates the condition and starts a perpetual cycle).
Don’t save your best for later. Never hold back on what you can give.
Empty everything on the page, and more will come to take its place.