What I Learned About Ideas While Working as a Writer

The veiw from my desk.

Three months in to making my living only as a writer, the sticky notes scattered around my office and on the pot of my desk plant tell you everything you need to know.

Some of these notes are extremely practical: “2K/ Month by February.” “Schedule haircut.”

Others border on the whimsical, scraps of dialogue I once thought I would add to my ever-evolving screenplay: “No offence, but this party’s real heterosexual, Mike.”

Still others have a profound quality to them, like this exchange between two unnamed characters: “All stories we tell are the same story.” “Then why do we keep telling it?”

During the time at my desk, I have had some of the single most idiotic ideas you can think of, and in the same day have had such fantastic flights of creativity that I lost myself in the pages of my own thought. But I’ve also learned that neither of these moments are necessarily better than the other. An idiotic idea is only idiotic when you look at it from a certain angle. Adjust its orientation, tilt your head a bit, and what once seemed worthless can open up into something extraordinary.

The plant at my desk is an epiphyllum oxypetalum, also known as a night blooming cereus. Under the right conditions, the plant will bloom, but only once a year, and only in darkness. I like to imagine the first person who discovered this. To everyone else before, the plant would seem like a short, leafy succulent, without a single distinguishing quality. But the person who stumbled across it first, at night, would have seen its long, green tendril reaching out, and on the end, a white star of a flower.

I see my job as a writer as an explorer, looking for moments of first discovery in my own thoughts, and in the thoughts of others. Sometimes, I return to the same idea again and again, only to watch it unfold weeks afterward. It’s never easy, waiting for that moment, which sometimes feels like it will never come. But once it does, I realize every time that the discovery it is worth the hours groping around in the dark.

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Dramaturg, writer, and performance maker based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Masters degree from University of Glasgow. Likes tiny birds, gnarled trees.

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Daniel Christmann

Daniel Christmann

Dramaturg, writer, and performance maker based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Masters degree from University of Glasgow. Likes tiny birds, gnarled trees.

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