Does an Idea Have Legs?

July 22, 2016

Being a creative person is just like any other occupation. The more you do it the easier it becomes. Once you get used to coming up with ideas for creative projects, it can be hard to stop the inspiration particles sleeting through the universe from hitting your brain and sparking more ideas. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that to realize any given idea takes time and there never seems to be enough time to tackle every idea.

From the start, there always seems to be too many creative ideas to be able to pursue. However, the problem doesn’t end there. Usually when a new idea pops up it’s all exciting and shiny. You get really enthused to switch over and start working on that idea right away. Then a couple of weeks later, the excitement levels off and the shine loses its lustre. Before you know it, the idea has run out of steam, falls by the way side, and, even worse, takes those couple of weeks of effort with it. There’s just not enough time, creatively speaking, to lose those weeks on futile endeavours.

That’s why I counsel patience with new ideas. Especially if they’re grand ideas. Ideas that are going to take a long time to fully develop.

For myself, if I have a new idea for a story to write or a computer game to develop, no matter how excited I am by it, I take that idea and I put it on the metaphorical shelf for at least a month. If at the end of that month I look at that idea and am still excited by it then it probably means that it’s an idea with legs; an idea that I’d be able to get behind and keep working on to completion.

Completing ideas is a big part of the creative process. An idea, no matter how good it is, has no value unless it’s actually realized. If you don’t see a creative idea through to completion you might as well never have had that idea in the first place.

The tricky situation comes when you’re currently working on an idea (or two, or three) and another idea comes along that does have legs. Now you’re faced with a choice. Do you shelve the new idea and carry on with the old one until it’s complete? Do you suspend the old idea for a time in favour of working on the new one? Do you try to split your time in some way between the two?

Here again I prefer the metaphorical shelf approach. As much as possible, I like to see one idea, one creative project through to completion before tackling another (and yes, I realize that I’ve currently got two computer games in development, but no rule is ever perfect). One good thing with keeping the shiny, new idea on the shelf is that it affords an even longer time to consider that idea and decide if it is something worth pursuing once time frees up from finishing another creative project.

In such a case, with an idea residing on that metaphorical shelf, if it’s a really good and interesting idea, it will keep bubbling up in your mind at odd moments while you’re still working on the first idea. Not only will the shelved idea keep bubbling up, but little bits and pieces will get added on to it as you think of ways of enhancing or complimenting that idea. The result is that you’ll have a much clearer picture of what you want to accomplish with that idea when it finally gets its turn. And if not? Well, that’s maybe a sign that you’re not really all that interested in that idea after all.

At the moment, my own idea shelf is rather crowded. Waiting in the wings for the Halloween Sleuthhounds and Robyn HUD games to complete are a number of creative contenders.

On the Sleuthhounds front, I’ve been stockpiling quite a few ideas for a game where Pureluck Homes and Jane Amspon meet for the first time. This has been hinted at in both of the first two games of the series, The Unlocked Room and The Cursed Cannon.

I’ve also been having a lot of fun doing the holiday Sleuthhounds games. First The Valenetine’s Vendetta and currently the aforementioned Halloween game. Looking beyond that, I’d love to be able to do a Christmas themed game. I also considered an Easter game at one point, but that was one of those ideas that didn’t seem so exciting after a time and it’s slipped off the shelf at this point.

[Amelia Deerhart from The Cursed Cannon and as she might appear ready for action on a deserted, tropical island.]
Amelia Deerhart from The Cursed Cannon and as she might appear ready for action on a deserted, tropical island.

Another long time Sleuthhounds idea I’ve been holding onto is a spinoff of sorts. While working on The Cursed Cannon, I became quite interested in the Amelia Deerhart character. As a pilot and an adventuress, she seems perfectly suited to helming an adventure game of her own.

Lest you think that all the shelf ideas are Sleuthhounds related, allow me to say that I’ve got a love for Satin & Sutherland as well. I already have a first draft for a second novel; however, it’s like any first draft. By the time you reach the end of a first draft, your story is in about as bad a shape as it’s ever going to be. It’s going to be riddled with plot holes, bad writing, and scenes that just don’t work. Although I haven’t been actively working on it, it has been bubbling away on the shelf and thoughts on making it better have been percolating.

Beyond a new novel, I also have an idea for bring the Satin and Sutherland characters into their own computer game. Some of the work I’m putting into Robyn HUD I can see as also being useful for a Satin & Sutherland game. Where that goes exactly remains to be seen.

As you can see, the idea shelf is quite crowded. And the above is only sampling of what I’ve got stored there. As I write this, I have every intention of realizing all the projects outlined above. It’s just a matter of time.

At least, that’s the idea.