#2. Chase a Spark

A series of contradictory but mostly sensible writing lessons for kids, business folks, teachers, ninjas, bankers, and other humans.

A cousin cornered me recently at a family event. He’s a quietly imposing gentleman who masks his hardened physique with disarming jokes and strategically chaotic red hair. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and after we exchanged a few pleasantries, he grabbed me by the necktie, lifted me clean off the floor, and growled, “Where are my writing tips?”

So here we go…

#2. Chase a Spark.

When I talk to kids about writing, I tell them that finding a spark, or an idea that gets you excited, is the first key step in the writing process. Here’s one of my favorite sparks:

“what about a chocolate factory that makes fantastic and marvelous things - and a crazy man running it?”

Sure, Virginia Woolf eventually took this idea, which morphed into the novel Mrs. Dalloway, in a different direction, and then Dahl pretty much stole it in order to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But you get the point.

The initial idea needs to be compelling enough to carry you through the inevitable pain of writing (see rule # 1), but this quality isn’t always clear at the start. That’s why the chase is critical. Ideas don’t progress into finished stories or products if you let them hover around in the ether. Recently, for example, I invented a revolutionary new table. Currently I’m calling it TBL. Sure, I could sit on this idea - not literally, since TBL has only one leg - and feel wonderful about my beautiful future in furniture design. But that won’t transform TBL into a billion-dollar lifestyle line.

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The same holds true for story ideas. If you have a fun idea, chase it. Start writing, sketching, and plotting immediately. If the idea is still exciting after you’ve put in some work and thinking, then you might have something. If you tell yourself that you’re going to wake up a little early, or stay up a little late, to work on it, and then you actually do that, this spark of yours might be worth pursuing. I chase dozens of story ideas. Most of them never make it out of my notebooks or my oversized head. But every once in a while, I follow one that keeps me up late at night, wakes me up early in the morning, and bounces around in my brain throughout the day.

Then it’s on to the next step.


I have more books coming out this year. I’ll tell you about them eventually. In the meantime, thanks for reading!

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