When I was a magazine editor at Pacific Press, I used to say, “The best thing about editing a magazine is that there is always another issue. And the worst thing about editing a magazine is that there is always another issue.” They also used to advise us that the first issue of a new publication wasn’t the hardest to produce. It’s the second issue. That especially goes for those who use up all of their good ideas on the first one.
And now I am the twice-yearly editor of an alumni magazine, editor-in-chief of a daily (sort-of) online newspaper, writer for the school’s annual report, as well as writer whenever anything else comes up. And oh, yes, a full-time teacher. And writer of other stuff….
When my Editorial Techniques students start class I tell them that they are responsible for two news stories a week for the Southwesterner online, with the idea that between us we will have enough stories to post a new one every day during the week. I call this process–and the grind associated with it–“Feeding the Beast.”
When would-be writers meet established writers, one of the questions that often comes up is: “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer is: “Everywhere.” Ideas don’t just fall out of the sky, or pop into your head, unrelated to real life in any way. As the scripture says: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
I tell my students, “Every good idea I ever had I stole from someone else,” and it’s true. No one comes up with a truly original idea, that is, unless they are handed the idea on stone tablets from on high. God is the source of all wisdom. What we get is the hashed over has beens, and then try to make something relatively original sounding out of it.
So here I am, just finished with a book for National Novel Writing Month, and itching to write another. Why don’t I start? Because I am learning slowly that you have to fill the tank to go another 350 miles. Unless you fill the tank, you will run out of gas. And it’s better to take time to fill it at the beginning than run out of gas before the end.
I am talking about reading. I’m talking about contemplation (that thing you do when the TV and video games are off and all you have are your thoughts). And even meditation.
That’s what I am doing right now. Even though my mind sometimes races with what I consider cool, really original ideas, I know it is not time to write yet. Now it the time to think. Writing comes when the ideas threaten to jump out of my head and land on the page, uninvited, to start their own lives.
That day will come. In the meantime, I am feeding the beast.