I’ll never forget the feeling of opening the draft of the manuscript for Wasted Prayer after my editor took her first read. I was so excited to be fulfilling my dream of becoming a published author that nothing could get me down. It was happening. It was here.
Now, the email was prefaced with, “These are merely suggestions. Accept the changes you agree with.”
But when I opened the document, I gasped slightly. My eyes narrowed as I tried to process what I saw.
I didn’t remember writing the draft in red! The document had at least one correction on every single line.
Literally, the entire 150+ page document was red. There was a “suggestion” on every line. Many had more.
Man, I don’t know how to use a comma, was my first thought. My second thought was, I don’t really want to do this anymore.
I’m glad those weren’t my only thoughts.
As I began to read the suggestions, I had a third thought: I realized that I needed to heed many of the suggestions. This was actually making the book better. This was making me better. My third thought won me over and the editing process continued.
I think any author would agree with this: Praise the Lord for editors!
How to get a great idea:
Do you think you have a good idea? The dream that you are chasing, does it have potential? Do you want it to be a great idea?
Rarely are great ideas great when they first hatch. Occasionally there’s been the jack-pot idea, but all of the great ideas that you know about were good ideas that were shaped into great ideas. Good ideas grow into great ideas.
When I learned this, I was set free. I used to think that since I didn’t have any great ideas, I shouldn’t do anything with any of my ideas.
This type of thinking runs unchecked in the lives of millions of people, ruining the chances of any idea coming to life. Good ideas are born. Great ideas are shaped.
27 is the magic number
A few years ago at IJM, we wanted to do a campaign on college campuses around the country that allowed students to share with their friends the tragic truth that slavery is alive and well in our world today. We’d never done a coordinated campaign like this before, so there were a lot of ideas on what we should do. When we first started brainstorming there were no great ideas. There were a few good ones, but there wasn’t anything that stopped us all in our tracks and every one sang in unison the Hallelujah chorus. (Secretly we all want that to happen when we share ideas. Or at times I know I do).
We started with the idea of “standing”, where students could share that they stood for something. There were a lot of directions we could have taken, but we landed on the idea of “freedom” since it’s a more positive term than alternate options. So, we wanted students to “stand for freedom”, but that’s all we had at the moment. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing “great.”
Through a series of conversations, a friend threw out an idea that transformed the entire campaign, which to date has reached hundreds of campuses. “Why don’t we ask them to stand for 27 consecutive hours to represent the 27 million people trapped in slavery?”
We asked students to find a spot on campus and stand all day and night. Amazingly, the signed up in droves to do it. The campaign reached tens of thousands of students around the country with the simple, yet powerful message that slavery still exists.
How do good ideas turn into great ideas?
If you want to turn good ideas into great ideas— hold them loosely.
That is the key to success.
What do I mean “hold them loosely”?
- It means being open to others input.
- It means being open to editing.
- It means being open to alternations.
I understand the relationship one has with an idea they love. It’s personal. It’s a part of you. When people want to “mess with” your idea, you think they are messing with you. I get this. It’s like they don’t get it. Why do we need to change it? But this thinking is for those that have good ideas. And you want to have a great idea.
When authors are writing books or screen plays, they use the term “Working Title” when discussing the project. A working title is the placeholder for the idea until something better comes along. This is in essence holding an idea loosely.
- Back to the Future (one of my all-time favorite 80s movies) had a working title of Spaceman from Pluto.
- Batman Begins’ working title was The Intimidation Game.
- Casablanca had the working title Everybody come to Rick’s.
- Friday the 13th had the working title A Long Night at Camp Blood.
Be thankful for alternate ideas.
Can’t You See How Ugly that Sofa is?
Sometimes we are just too close to our own ideas to see the need to change them. Often that comes from having them live inside of us for so long that we can’t see them for what they actually are; rather we see them how we perceive them. Have you ever been to someone’s house and they have an ugly sofa (or chair) that doesn’t fit in at all? It’s the first thing you see when you walk in, but they don’t even give it a second glance.
Because they have had that ugly couch for the last twenty years. They bought it 4 different houses ago, before it was really ugly and it actually matched the walls. They’ve gotten so used to it, that now they can’t see it for what it really is: ugly. This is not to say your idea is ugly, merely to show it’s possible to see something for as we perceive it verses what it actually is.
This is why is it so important for us to be open with our ideas—to hold them loosely. We need to give people permission to help us make our ideas great.
This does not mean that you listen to just anyone or to everyone. Don’t carelessly throw your idea to the crowd, hoping for constructive and helpful feedback. The crowd can be treacherous. The crowd can be unruly. The crowd can be vicious.
Get feedback from close friends or trusted colleagues. Build a team that can speak into ideas. Don’t just listen to anyone.
- What good idea are you working on that you need to hold loosely?
- Name 1-3 people you can ask to give input on the idea of how to make it better.
- Contact them this week and ask for their help.
- Repeat steps 1-3 often.