Chris Brogan set off a controversy of epic proportions yesterday (at least in the online marketing world) when he announced a new paid subscription service that delivers blog post ideas to your inbox on a weekly basis. I'm not going to get into the details of the debate here- just do a search on Twitter or Google and you can decide for yourself.
Watching this from the sidelines though, I was struck by something that I consider a fundamental truth when it comes to writing: it's the execution of the idea- the actual writing portion, where the heavy lifting happens. Having a great idea does you no good if you don't follow through with it. You could have a million ideas a day pushed to you, but if you don't actually DO something with those ideas, they are useless to you.
That's the rub. The idea is but a small part of the overall picture. How you execute on the idea is what separates you from the masses.
The Idea Doesn't Write Itself
If you have ever produced content, you know that finding the idea is the easiest part of the process. That is followed by research, the outline, and then comes the actual writing that couples what you want to say with the words you want to use to convey your idea in a meaningful way. That is no easy task.
And if writing isn't your strong suit, the idea itself isn't going to make you a better writer.
There Is No Original Idea
You can joke about it, but as you disassemble any book, movie, article, etc. there is a rote formula that has been proven to work time and time again.
How may times have you seen this basic scenario play out?
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fight. Trouble ensues. Boy saves girl and they realize they're actually in love and meant for each other. They live happily every after.
I think this is the basic premise of every Harlequin romance I've ever read. But that doesn't stop me from buying a book or watching a movie that I know follows that formula.
Why? Because it's the details of the story that make it unique and keeps our attention.
Your Writing Voice Is the Key
I've written pieces using writing prompts. (Take any writing class, and you will find that is frequently the foundation of any free form in-class writing activities.) But even when an entire room is given the same prompt, it is amazing to hear the different directions people go in- that usually leave me thinking something along the lines of “Did he hear the same thing I did?”.
What you, the creator, bring to the table in your own words is your “special sauce”. Your originality and voice is what makes the piece unique. The idea itself becomes secondary as you twist and morph it into your own- usually with great effort.
So from my perspective, where you find your ideas matters little to me. Showing up and doing the work is nothing less than critical. Bring your personality and flair into your writing session, and you will have something unique that no one else in the world can duplicate.
(photo credit by Jordanhill School D&T Dept)
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