day ten: using your best ideas first.

I shifted in my seat and looked around me. 

No one was raising their hands. I was at a book signing with Ransom Riggs and we were listening to him talk about writing: his process of finding creepy artifacts and pictures, how MISS PEREGRINES almost wasn't published, what being married to another best-selling author is like in the day-to-day routine. We'd moved from him sharing to Q&A and it was quiet, everyone too eager to get to the part where he inked his signature into their book covers, kindles, purses, and more.

I hesitated, and then lifted my arm so could see me. He caught my eye and smiled. 

Success. 

"You've written two books now. How did you move from writing the first one to the second? How did you fight that fear of never doing it again? What would you tell those of us who've written a book and are trying to write our second?"

I saw a flash of recognition pass across his features and knew I hit a nerve. For authors, the sophomore slump is just as real a fear as it is for any artist. Was that first time just a fluke? Am I a one hit wonder? Will anyone ever read anything of mine ever again? 

He shifted back on the heels of his feet and then moved forward, grabbing the podium. 

"You have to use your best ideas first." He paused. "Too many of us — myself included — come up with an idea and force ourselves to use it later, thinking it'll be wasted on our current project. There were a lot of times I was tempted to take the success of MISS PEREGRINES and try to ride it all the way to book three. But then book two is what, a bridge? It needs to be just as engaging as the first and just as satisfying as the third." 

"Best ideas first." He repeated. "Don't buy into the lie that it's the only idea you'll ever have so you need to save it for something good. Your something good is now.

I've never forgotten this advice. I used it all through writing SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY and even in coming up with blog ideas. I have a journal where I put every stray thought and idea while I'm writing. There are tabs for blog posts, tabs for Story Unfolding emails, and tabs for manuscripts. 

About halfway through SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, I got stuck. Part of it was because we moved and my routine was thrown off kilter. Most of it was because I was still trying to partition and prioritize the creative ideas I had for this book and other writing projects. Finally, I stopped trying to rank them and started at the top.

Best ideas first. 

I finished my manuscript a month later and in the process, structured out an entire new series.

Here's the thing. I believe creativity begets creativity. If we're being creative, in whatever capacity, we're making space internally for new ideas and connections. You never run out of ideas. As long as you're creating, and as long as you're willing to listen for connections and inspiration, the ideas will present themselves. 

You just have to use the best ones first.

Posted on October 10, 2014 and filed under writing, indie publishing.