Rejection or new ideas

by Jiří Petruželka
(Czech Republic)


"In that case, your subconscious may get tired of rejection and stop giving you so many ideas. (Don't let this happen!)"

What would your advice be once this *does* happen?

I've rejected so many ideas either immediately or after initial hype that I start to feel like a blank slate and most often a subconsciousness' answer is "I just don't know". I've tried to go back to when I originally got the inclination and things that incited it, but to no avail. Still only have only a few ideas too sketchy or vague to be worth rejecting.

(Reasons mostly for sounding unoriginal or cliché, too similar to other work, having plotholes, indecisiveness, or perhaps being too afraid of trying anything too different. I want to use the story in a game, so I can't focus only on writing and have to stick with what I make for a longer time. Also games are a medium most accused of being cliché, that gives both a good goal and possibly a crippling obstacle.)

Thank you for your time and a great website!

Answer: There are several ways in which the right ideas may find you (or you may invite them in). Here are a few in increasing order of usefulness.

1. Sometimes it works to meditate or focus on the problem for a length of time until eventually the right idea bubbles up from your subconscious and gets past all the barriers (criteria) you have been using to reject ideas. You have to be open enough to allow this to happen and it can test your patience, but it can work.

2. Sometimes your criteria are so demanding or you are so critical of your ideas that they can only emerge when your attention is focused elsewhere. For instance, many people find ideas come to them in the shower or in dreams or when taking a walk--times when they are not actively trying to come up with an idea.

3. Being a creative person (in any discipline) often requires the ability to let yourself be childlike. Children are creative geniuses compared to most adults because they have not learned to be critical or discerning about ideas. They don't criticize their own creativity. They are just excited to be having ideas.

You have to let yourself enter that childlike state while you are coming up with ideas. Later, you can return
to a more adult (critical) frame of mind when you are deciding what ideas to keep. But try not to criticize ideas at the same time as you are coming up with them.

4. A principle of improvisational theatre called "Yes, and..." also helps with idea generating. The way it works in theatre is that one actor will begin a scene by introducing an idea and the second actor must not reject that idea. Instead, the second actor must say the equivalent of "Yes, and..." and then add a new idea. By going back and forth, adding ideas but rejecting none, a complex scene or story can be created out of almost nothing.

When writing, rather than reject an idea outright because it sounds cliched, try accepting the idea, but then adding another idea to it or putting a twist on it. Maybe the first idea is a cliche, but by adding new ideas to it, you can make it original. Maybe your first idea has plotholes, but rather than reject it, try coming up with lists of ideas you might use to fill the holes.

5. A more formal approach is to take an idea (any idea), and create a list of questions about that idea. Any question is valid, but it is better to avoid yes/no questions. The questions can range from simple ones like "What colour is the character's eyes?" to more complex ones like "Why would the character do X?" You can use your critical faculty to find questions.

In your next writing session, brainstorm lists of possible answers to each question (10 answers * 10 questions = 100 ideas).

Next, choose the answers you like for each question and re-write your idea, incorporating these answers.

You can repeat this process as many times as you like. If you find yourself not liking the story idea, try asking a questions like "What would make this story more interesting?" or "What is the most surprising thing that could happen at this point in the story?"

Sometimes, even when this process doesn't seem to work, it will often stimulate your subconscious mind enough that the right idea will emerge when you shift your attention away (as in #2 above).

Finally, it's a good idea to write ideas down before you reject them. An idea that seems bad now may turn out to hold real promise on a later reading.

Comments for Rejection or new ideas

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how I come up with ideas
by: Peter Pan

I find that it's easy to come up with ideas if I ask myself "What if..." And leave my imagination to the rest. Just the act of starting a sentence makes you want to finish it, and starting that sentence with "what if" opens up many different endings.

To: Peter Pan
by: Glen

I agree. Asking "What if...?" is another way to put yourself into a creative rather than critical frame of mind.

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