It just popped into my head! Now what?

Feb 28, 2017 | Better Writing

We’ve all had that experience. You’re just going through life doing whatever you do, when, suddenly, bang! Pow! Brilliant flash of light! You have a great idea. Immortality awaits. Not so fast there, my friend.

Our brains naturally create connections and ideas. You can’t stop it, it’s something that human beings do. But that doesn’t mean that all the ideas we create are ready to use right then. That “great” idea is just the starting point. Here’s what to do next.

Capture Your Idea

If you get that idea in the middle of the night, or while driving to the supermarket, or while working on something else, you need to capture it right away. If you don’t capture it in writing or as an audio note, the idea will be gone in seconds and you’ll wonder what was so great about it while you mourn the loss.

Test Your Idea

Almost every idea seems like a great one when it first hits, but most ideas aren’t so great in their original form. So, test your idea. How would you work it out? What will happen if you do that? If you can’t seem to work it out, all is not lost. Put the unfinished idea in your compost file. If the idea looks like it will work, make it better.

Sharpen Your Phrasing

Work on the way you express your idea and present it. Try different wordings for the basic idea. Sometimes changing the wording really changes the insight.

Add Support for Your Idea

It’s time for a little homework. What are some stories you can tell that would flesh out the idea or make it more powerful? Do a little research to see if you can find some facts that support the idea. Remember that you might find facts and experiences that refute it. Then, it’s time for that compost heap again.

Now Write It

If you’ve got a good idea for something to say and you’ve sharpened it and found support for it, it’s time to write. Use your idea as the starting point for a blog post or part of that book you’re working on. Writing your idea down in neat sentences helps you think it through and uncovers problems.

The usual writing advice applies. Get it down first so that you can deal with it. Then rewrite, revise and edit as necessary.

Bottom Line

If an idea just popped into your head, it’s probably not ready to use just yet. Do what you can to make your idea a powerful expression instead of a flash of insight.

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