Recently, I came across this quote attributed to J.K. Rowling:
I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.
Within another day, I saw a fellow writer express similar concerns about “oversharing” her ideas.
This made me curious as to why so many writers seem to have this fear. Is there such a thing as sharing too much? Are there reasons why you shouldn’t talk about your ideas?
As far as I can tell, there are three main reasons why some writers argue against discussing your ideas:
The idea will sound stupid if you describe it out loud.
I definitely understand this. A new idea always seems so shiny and magical in my head. But as soon as I open my mouth and try to describe it to someone else, it starts to sound silly. I start to see the holes in the plot. All of a sudden, I start to feel vulnerable and embarrassed: Oh no, they must think I’m an idiot for thinking this was a good idea! I find myself hurriedly adding “it’s probably dumb” or “I know it’s clichéd” to the end of every sentence.
Someone might shoot down your idea.
It’s not a great feeling when you describe your idea to someone and they just stare at you blankly. Or, even worse, they say it sounds stupid (fortunately, this has not happened to me many times!). Or they say, “Hey, isn’t that the same plot as ____?” Reactions/comments like that can definitely make me start to doubt myself.
Someone might steal your idea!
I’m not super worried about this one. But I know some writers are afraid of having their ideas “stolen” by others if they reveal too much.
The question is: Are these fears legitimate? Should we let them get in the way of sharing our story ideas?
It depends. I can only speak for myself––but personally, I try not to let these fears get in my way. Do I keep some things to myself? Of course. But I’ve also gotten some of my most valuable feedback from discussing story ideas out loud.
Telling people about my ideas isn’t always helpful. Sometimes they’re dismissive, or their suggestions aren’t helpful to me. But I think the important thing to remember is that ultimately: no one knows your idea like you do, and no idea is written in stone. If someone doesn’t show much enthusiasm for your idea, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It could just be their personal taste, or maybe you need to develop it some more. As with any constructive criticism, it’s not a reason to give up.
As for the risk of others “stealing” your idea: in my opinion, ideas aren’t trademarked and nothing is 100% original. I probably wouldn’t post an entire plot synopsis of a story online. But even if someone were to “steal” my idea, there’s no way it would be exactly the same. Of course, no one is forcing you to share your ideas if you’re afraid of other people using them. Personally, though, I’m willing to take the risk.
How about you guys?
- Do you discuss your ideas out loud with others?
- Besides the reasons I shared, what are other reasons you might hesitate to talk about your ideas?
UPCOMING: Tomorrow is #WIPpetWednesday! (Yes, I know last week it was called #WIPWednesday, but then I found out there was already a similar meme––so I will be joining in on that instead. Sorry for the inconsistency!) And I will have some exciting news to share. 🙂 Stay tuned …