Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Slutty Idea

I was working with a high school creative writing class. A young man raised his hand and asked, “What do you do when you’re working on one story but then get an idea for another story?”

“Ah,” I said, “That’s what I like to call the slutty idea.**”

The class laughed and then I explained, “The slutty idea is that idea that shows up unexpectedly and says, ‘Hey there. Pay attention to me. I’m your best idea ever and I’ll be so easy to write. I promise. Forget that other story. I’m the one you want to work on.’” 

(I did this last part in my best-but-appropriate-for-the-audience sexy voice. I'm sure my son was thankful he wasn't in the classroom that day.) 

I told the kids that, in my own experience, the slutty idea likes to show right in the middle of a hard part. “It usually means I’m stuck and just need to keep pushing through on my current project,” I told them. 

I also told them that sometimes, if the slutty idea seems really interesting, I might take some time to write it down or jot a quick outline. That usually satisfies the itch, so to speak. 

Slutty ideas can be so tempting. It’s the whole “the grass is always greener” thing. But sometimes the grass really *is* greener. Right? How do we know when to abandon one idea for another? 

Ask yourself:

* Am I stuck/having trouble in my current work-in-progress? 

* Do I still believe in my current idea? Is it something that makes me happy, I’m passionate about or think is marketable?

* Have I invested a lot of time and energy in my current idea? Am I close to finishing? 

* Can the slutty idea wait? Meaning, the idea is really good but not necessarily a super time sensitive or “hot” genre/topic. 

If any of these answers are Yes, keep working on your current project and let that slutty idea simmer and see what happens. If, on the other hand, that other idea keeps calling and calling you and find that you can’t stop listening to it, then maybe take a break and explore it. 

How about you? Have you ever had a slutty idea? How did you handle it? 

**I’m sure I didn’t coin this phrase. But I can’t remember where I heard it first.


  1. Oh my gosh I love this term. Yes, I know the slutty idea! Such a tramp! Such a temptation! Look away. Look away.

  2. Definitely. But I open my "ideas doc" and write out my thoughts, maybe even a paragraph or two if I have something juicy. But that is usually all I need, as to go deeper I really need to work on it. So it becomes easy to get back to what I was working on.

  3. This happens to me all the time! I usually do explore the idea a little, enough to write down the sparks and what it's all about (to avoid an illegible scrawl that makes no sense when I return to my notebook). But I also believe that if it's something that I need to work on, it will call to me again when I'm ready for it. Most of the ideas I've shaped into books are ones that have come up a few different times or ways in my writing notebook.

  4. I call it the bright and shiny idea since I have writer's ADD. Oooh, bright and shiny thing!! You're right, it's usually my brain trying to commit story suicide. :)

  5. Yeah, I have ADOS.

    Attention Deficit...oooooh...Shiny!

    I love the term Slutty Idea. Ha! That's great. And I get them all the time. They're fun to think about here and there, but yeah, it's not a good idea to go cheating on your main WIP.


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