Story ideas are a lot like babies: no one knows where they come from. If you’re a writer, you know a story idea can hit you when you least expect it. Just as you drift off to sleep, or reach for the shampoo in the shower, or even while someone is talking to you at a party. All of a sudden, bam! What if the world’s greatest cat burglar…was a cat! You don’t find the next great story idea: it finds you.
“Oh Story Idea, Mighty Story Idea!”
I will freely admit story ideas have hit me on Sunday mornings while I am trying to listen to a sermon. The pastor will say something, prompting the little incandescent lightbulb to go off above my head and before I know it, the congregation lets out a communal “amen” and I have no idea what we are agreeing to. Which leads me to my question: When does a story idea become an idol?
I’m not talking about a “build a shrine around your books, burn incense, and bow down to them morning and evening” kind of idol. Though if you are doing this, I would highly recommend you stop at once and tear the sucker down! While it can be unhealthy for an idea to consume our thoughts 24/7, I don’t think this automatically leads to idolatry. After all, story ideas need constant care, food, and love to properly grow; especially if it’s a newborn idea. It also needs to be changed frequently because as it turns out, the idea stinks. We can try to keep ourselves from getting caught up in a story idea, but I think this is the wrong approach.
While it is important to be present with your friends and family, and not be so distracted you put your phone in the freezer, or run the microwave with your car keys inside, you shouldn’t stifle creativity. Story ideas are like “every good and perfect gift [which] is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17 NIV). But like every one of God’s gifts, we as humans can abuse it, and distort it.
Write for an Audience of One
When we write, it should not be to show the world what we’re capable of, it should not be to shut down the haters, and it should never be about becoming the masters of our own destiny. When we write, we should write to please an audience of one: God. A story idea becomes an idol when our pride steps in. When we see an idea as our “ticket out of this one-horse town!” this means we are pinning our hopes and dreams on something we have created ourselves. I don’t know about you, but this sounds an awful lot like idolatry to me. We are telling God we don’t need His help. With this story, the world is our oyster. We can make it on our own. Without His help! This is the dangerous path we as writers should avoid at all costs.
As Christians, we are told in Philippians 4:8 “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—dwell on these things.” (Php. 4:8 HCSB) and in 2nd Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5 NIV). Think about that for a moment. We are to make our thoughts obedient to Christ. Folks, this does not come naturally. So how do we do this?
Test the Idea
Personally, I suggest the next time an idea hits you on the broadside of your head, and you get the feeling “This could be it!” Hog-tie that idea to a chair in a dimly lit room. Shine a light in its face and interrogate it. Ask the idea, “Are you obedient to Christ? Or do you just want to make me rich and famous?” If this story idea reflects what is pure, lovely, and true, then perhaps you should embrace the idea with open arms, and give thanks to the God who gave it to you. But if not, grind it up into a powder, put it in your water, and drink it. Because that, my friend, is an idol!
Have you ever caught yourself pinning all your hopes and dreams on one story idea? Please let me know in the comments!
Kyle Morgan is the newest member of the Write2Ignite blog team. He is a fulltime college student at Grand Canyon University, where he is majoring in Professional Writing for New Media. The youngest of three boys, Kyle is the final bird in his parent’s nest in the ever-growing state of Idaho. On his blog Cranial Flatulence – A comedy blog. (wordpress.com), he recounts his hilarious, and often embarrassing adventures of being a homeschool fundamentalist in the Pacific Northwest. This is his first post for Write2Ignite, and he is excited to begin his journey as a children’s author. You can follow him on his Facebook page.