There is a difference you know. I didn’t realize it myself until just a few months ago. I guess it must take quite a bit of writing before you can recognize the difference. In any case, it’s an important one.
The idea, for a writer, is a concept suitable for a plot, which the author comes up with on his own, or is inspired in him by experiencing something. Most often, I’ve found that experiencing things leads to good ideas, but the spontaneous generation of one isn’t unusual.
Now, with the idea firmly, or not so firmly, grasped, the author determines whether or not to write the story which is based upon the idea. It may happen or it may not, depending on both the author’s interest and the quality of the idea. The majority of my own ideas are discarded soon after they are imagined, mostly because the concepts tend to be either less original than I had thought, or because there is not enough substance behind the idea to base a whole book upon.
Sometimes these abandoned ideas can be turned into short stories, but even that requires more work that you might think. Most frequently, they are just laid down to join the others that litter the wayside. Also, there is the occasion when an author stumbles across an idea that he isn’t ready for, one that is good and capable of supporting an entire novel. Then, the author might attempt to write the story, but discovers that the task that he has chosen is quite beyond his current abilities.
My own writing past is a trail of such efforts, ones which were started in all enthusiasm, but then fell away as I discovered that they required an attention span I did not have and a level of research that I was incapable of. Most of those were attempted years ago, so I may go back to them one day, with all the new talents I’ve managed to foster.
That, however, isn’t as far as the idea goes. Every once in a while, an author will come up with an idea that no longer fits the casual definition of an ‘idea’. It is an idea that transcends itself, become an ‘IDEA’. Capital letters obligatory. The IDEA is a concept, not unlike the idea, but far more important. The concept may be weak, badly realized, or even a mere conglomeration of words.
And the author is the only one who knows that it is an IDEA. It stirs some emotion him (or her), awe, joy, glee, something of the kind. It MUST be written, it cannot be left alone. The concept can become the whole reason that they write, whether they write that IDEA or not. The IDEA is their aim, to be able to write out that ultimate story, to turn it into their magnum opus.
The IDEA can be written, finished, and published. My compliments and awe go to those authors who have managed to write their IDEA. The IDEA can become the silent inspiration, never seen by any but the author, that hides quietly, giving him the confidence to continue writing.
Do you have ideas or do you have an IDEA?