If Ideas are a Writer's Currency, I'm Broke

This month’s topic is seasonal – what scares us the most? Honestly, I don’t know where to start. I’m afraid of so many things – losing a child. Getting lost. Screwing up another friendship. The list is practically endless. But in keeping with the theme of this blog, I decided to focus on writing.
You know what scares me about my writing? It’s the nagging little voice deep in my brain that keeps asking me, “What if you never have another idea?”


Social networking opened up a whole new world for me. It exposed me to books I might never have read and introduced me to writers I might never have heard of, and in doing so, enriched me. But whenever you meet new people who move in your circle, the inevitable comparisons begin. You read about one writer who wrote his novel in three weeks and you wonder why you can’t do that, too. Then you hear about another writer whose debut novel hit the best-seller list and feel crappy that yours did not. But the most terrifying thing for me is hearing other writers say things like this:

“Oh, just got shiny new idea while showering today. Gah! Which one should I write first? Too many great ideas.”

And a tiny part of my soul shrivels up and dies because it never works like that for me. I don’t have hundreds of books or characters in my brain. At best, there may be two book ideas in my head. Finding viable ideas is the hardest part, for me, of being a writer. I have to consciously sit down and brainstorm ideas, play hours of What If games, and plot like an over-caffeinated soap opera writer. I do fill up note pages playing these games, but too often, learn the ideas that result from these games were already done.

So I abandon them. And then I always fear my last book will actually be my last book. I will be the literary equivalent of a one-hit wonder. But, as many of us know, fear is a relentless motivator. So, to fight my fear, I read often – both in and out of my genre, including the news, and try to read critically so that I can determine how I might have attacked this theme or answered that question. Usually, these efforts don’t add up to a book; they may be parts of a larger story, so the work is not entirely wasted. But whole book ideas? No. Still don’t have more than one or two.

I think my biggest fear is this means I’m not a real writer. Shouldn’t real writers have stock piles of ideas? Ideas are a writer’s currency. The more ideas we have, the more books we write and the larger our careers grow. What if Carrie were the only story Stephen King wrote? Would we still remember his name? I imagine writers like Neil Gaiman and Nora Roberts have so many ideas, they have to stick them in off-shore bank accounts so they don’t get lost. But me? I have my one or two book ideas sewn into the lining of my clothes and hope I don’t get rolled.

*shivers* Hold me. 


  1. Patty, well, if this blog post is any indication, you don't have to worry. Here we are--22 days into October and you are the first person to write about a currency of ideas. Even your title is cool.

  2. Totally agree with you, Jody! I also think it's all about recognizing ideas. I think every next-biggest-thing starts out as a whisper.

  3. Thank you, Jody! I feel better :) Also, what Holly said about ideas starting as whispers makes a lot of sense to me. I just need hep to recognize those ideas.

  4. I really believe that a book "knows what it wants to be"... You may start off with one idea. Then it changes as you write (and discover more about your characters and their motivations). It's all about finding where it takes you!

  5. You are not alone. Ideas, for me, are like squeezing blood from a stone. I have to work very hard to get a good one that sticks and is worth writing.


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