Waiting for the Big Idea? Don’t!
by Ruth Spiro

uglyowlWhat do a macramé owl, Celia Chompers, and a town called Fate have in common? Nothing, really, except that they’re all written in my little green notebook.

I’ve always been amused by that iconic light bulb that appears above a cartoon character’s head to symbolize a bright idea; too bad it doesn’t actually happen in real life. (Although, it may be a good thing––imagine the effect on global warming…) When I first started writing, I often sat at my desk, waiting for that moment to occur––the Big Idea. When I tired of waiting, I did something else: Walked the dog, read the newspaper, baked some cookies. I soon noticed it was at those times that “ideas” began to appear.

I’d write these “ideas” on scraps of paper and throw them into my purse. Later, I might find them while digging for the dry cleaning ticket; sometimes, the scraps ended up being used for bubble gum disposal. I needed a notebook.

detailswapEvery writer should have a notebook. Not one of those fancy, leather-bound ones. You know, the kind that’s so nice, you hate to mess it up by writing in it? No, I recommend the little spiral ones that usually sell for 39¢. And, they’re easy to find in your purse, because the end of the spiral wire is always sticking out, just waiting to jab you. Perfect.

You may be wondering why I’ve put the word “idea” in quotes. (See? Like that.) It’s because the things I write in my notebook are actually “details.” (There, I did it again.) They’re observations, snippets of conversation, or even cool names I notice in the obituaries, like Celia Chompers. (By the way, if any of her relatives are reading this, I’m sorry for your loss.) They don’t have to be full-blown ideas, just the potential for an idea. Takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?

Don’t wait around for your Big Idea. Take a walk, buy a notebook and start collecting details. Put them together, take them apart, pick one and just start writing. Oh, and feel free to use the macramé owl. It’s been hanging around for a very long time.

Got any details you’d like to recycle?

Let’s have a Detail Swap.

Leave a detail as a comment below.

Leave a penny, take a penny. You know how that goes.

Ruth Spiro is the author of the award-winning picture book, Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist. (Reviewed on this blog.) It’s the story of a boy who feels he doesn’t fit in with his family of artists, until he discovers his own unique talent in an unexpected medium––bubble gum! Her articles and essays have appeared in The Writer, FamilyFun, Child, and Chicago Parent, and her stories have also been published in popular anthologies, notably The Right Words at the Right Time, Volume 2, edited by Marlo Thomas, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles.

A frequent speaker at schools and conferences, Ruth may be contacted through her web site at www.ruthspiro.com.