My writing buddy Augusta Scattergood recently sent a link to writer Sue Monk Kidd’s Top 10 list of writing advice . Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees, and The Mermaid Chair, is an engaging and wise woman. I printed out her list for future reference – wisdom words for when my mind wanders or I find myself re-reading the same sentence over, over and over. These are sure indicators of an imagination in need of kick-starting.
Advice Number 4 held my attention. It’s about going with the third idea generated by an initial flash of inspiration. Kidd believes that one’s gut instinct is often a jumping off spot for completely new creations.
This insight comes as I’ve just completed an excellent book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. New ideas are not linear, Gladwell writes, and the most successful ones spread like epidemics - exponentially doubling and re-doubling. People who have these sudden inspirations are called Innovators and, more often than not, their groundbreaking ideas are unorganized and misunderstood by the public.
It is up to another group of people, the Translators, to take these new ideas, shape and refine them, so they become acceptable to large audiences. Innovators and Translators are necessary for a product or movement to reach the tipping point – mass market success.
I wonder if this same process holds true for writers. Our initial inspiration could be called the Innovator – an exciting but un-polished idea. Fortunately, the Second or Third Thing arrives to function as the Translator, whose job is to repackage the idea or come up with a new creation. The evolution of our idea proceeds to a point where it tips and the message of our writing becomes a clear and potent force.