My (Doomed) Search for the Best Idea (April theme) by Claudia Mills

On the topic of brainstorming, an author friend says, "You don't want your first idea, you want  your best idea." Another writing guru has proclaimed that the writing process has three stages: 1) Think it up; 2) Write it up; 3) Fix it up. He claims that the vast majority of  a writer's time should be spent on #1 and #3.

These are most likely excellent tidbits of advice.

The trouble is that they don't seem to work for me.

Case in point: I decided this year that I was going to seek and find not more ideas, but better ideas, not my first idea, but my best idea. I was going to spend a TON of time on "Think it up" before I ever let myself leap into "Write it up."

It was January when I started "thinking it up." I've been thinking ever since, waiting for that best idea to emerge. But it's mid-April now, and still no best idea has appeared.Despite the spring sunshine, despite daffodils, tulips, and redbud in bloom, I'm paralyzed with inertia, pale with depression, as sad a writer as I've ever been.

Because here's the thing. The part of writing that I love best isn't "Think it up," or "Fix it up."It's "Write it up." It just so happens that what I love most is the writing itself. What I've written over the course of the past three-and-a-half months, as I did my so-called thinking, has been precisely nothing. Oh, and you can't "fix up" nothing, either.

So yesterday I decided that I wasn't going to wait a minute longer for my best idea, or for a good idea, or even for a minimally okay idea. I was going to look at my somewhat pitiful list of ideas, pick one of them, and start writing. Never was there such a change in an author's mood in the history of the world. And guess what? As I write, I'm finding a way to make this idea - yes, this one - better and better.

Maybe it will turn out to be my best one yet. Or maybe not. I can't worry about that now. I'm too busy writing.


  1. Love this Claudia. How will we know if it's best until it's written.

  2. What Darlene said! For me, the ideas come while I'm writing, not when I'm thinking.

  3. Thanks, Darlene and Laurie. Glad to know I'm not alone in this. Forget thinking! Write!

  4. I attempted with my latest YA to plan EVERYTHING out before writing. But you kind of can't, actually. Things pop up while writing that change the plan. Always.


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