Over the weekend my husband was reading a book about engineering design. It’s amazing the two of us are so compatible because I was busy reading a wonderful new book to endorse for a friend of mine which is yet to release, by Ruth Axtell. While hubby learned about the best ways to design a workable project (yawn!), I was lost in a book filled with intrigue between the British, French Royalists and those still loyal to Bonaparte. Remarkably enough, both of us were satisfied with our reading choices.
But perhaps more remarkably than that, (if you haven’t already guessed) it’s often my husband who comes up with the most interesting topics for me to blog about. This was no exception. One of the subtitles in his book went something like this: Don’t Marry Your First Design Idea. The advice struck me as something that could reach across the creativity spectrum.
Here’s why. As a writer, I’m probably not alone in the nocturnal brilliance deception. That’s when I wake up from an inspirational dream that even after waking can be taken a bit farther, perhaps expanded into an entire plot line. I might even write it down with the night light (my reading light) or a lighted pen and paper I keep handy for just such occasions. I settle back to sleep thinking of how fun the new story line will be to explore.
Until I wake up and under the light of day my midnight mastery of storytelling doesn’t seem so masterful.
Many stories start out that way, whether from night- or day-dreaming. They begin with such promise, until little things like motivation or story structure get in the way. Sometimes that’s half the fun, working out those details until the entire story clicks into place, as if just waiting to be discovered. But it doesn’t always work out, no matter how hard I’ve tried.
I gave up on one story because it required too much time spent on the characters’ childhoods. It wasn’t exactly a coming-of-age story; it was, like so many other ideas I’ve had, a romance. But their childhoods were so important to the story that it took too long to get them to an age of interest for a grownup audience. Since I don’t write sagas, I abandoned it—at least for now.
Another idea I wanted to explore was a suspense novel, believe it or not. I don’t actually read suspense novels, so this was probably a bad idea to begin with. But there is a local legend about a business owner who is more than a little reluctant to sell off his property, despite the homes and more family-friendly community buildings springing up around him. Rumors of what might be buried at the back of his property spurred more than a couple of plot lines for me. But since I’d have to totally redefine my brand, it seemed best to abandon that initial design. (At least for now!)
What I’m saying is that sometimes even our really good ideas, ones we initially love, can certainly be launched—but sometimes they’re better off left behind in the creativity graveyard. Some great ideas turn out to be workable once they’re changed, altered, or tweaked if we’re going to produce the best possible product. But if we cling too stubbornly to every initial inspiration, we might lose out on other or better opportunities.
Something to think about as we plunge into a new season of work!
PS Perhaps some of you might connect the title of this blog to one of my new favorites shows (though it’s not very new). It’s called Love It Or List It, on HGTV, about a home designer and realtor who work with a family whose home is no longer working for them. Will the designer be able to remodel/redesign the house to suit their needs and make them fall in love with their house again, or will the realtor find a new place they can love and live in—within their budget? In the end, will they love their newly redone/redecorated house, or will they list it in favor of a new place?