What’s the Big Idea?

By Delia Latham

Got a Mason jar? Or maybe an old mayonnaise jar you’ve run through the dishwasher and stuck in the back corner of the top shelf in case you need it for some unknown something in the future?

Here’s that something.

As a writer, you should always be seeking “the big idea.” As a writer, you should be using the bellows of imagination to ignite tiny sparks of idea into blazing fires of fabulous fiction.

Ideas are everywhere, and if you’re a serious writer, you spot them in places no one else thinks to look. You see shadows of “story” in mundane conversation and fictional scenes in places others walk by without a second glance. You pick up a newspaper and spot ten possible story lines in the first three pages. You visit a child’s show-and-tell and go home with a brand new novel percolating in your brain.

Trouble is, most of those bright spears of genius never make it into a book. Why? Because they go unrecorded, fizzle out, and are forgotten. The idea was so sharp, so bright, so vivid…you were absolutely certain you’d remember.

But you didn’t.

Don’t let it happen again. Pull out that useless jar (the one in the back corner of the top shelf) and put it to good use. 


Well, you could start by taking a solemn oath. Come on…hand over heart, and repeat after me:

I, (insert your name here), do solemnly swear, to never let even the smallest idea go unrecorded, from this day forward, as long as I call myself a writer.

There. You’ve done it. You’ve made a pledge. Keeping it is a matter of two simple steps.

1.    Make a point of recording at least one idea every day. Doesn’t have to be fancy. You can type it or scribble it or speak it into a memo on your phone. Jot it straight from your imagination into a notebook…or the back of an envelope, who cares? Cut it out of the newspaper. Tear it out of a magazine.

You get the picture. When you see something that creates a spark of imagination, of possibility…make note of it in whatever way works at the time. Seriously. If you’re sitting in a stall in a public restroom when “the big idea” tickles your brain, tear a couple squares of toilet paper off the roll and jot down a note. Don’t let that idea get away.

2.    Before you call each day “a night,” drop at least one of those ideas into your jar. Eventually, it will be stuffed with business cards and sticky notes, napkins and toilet tissue, newspaper clippings and magazine photos, even personal ads. That’s OK. Each item you capture inside that jar is a spark.

Someday, you’ll find yourself going through a mental dry spell, when you can’t come up with an idea to save your soul. But it won’t matter, because all you have to do is go get your jar—you know, the one in the back corner of the top shelf. Just reach in and pull out one of those hastily noted thoughts…any one, at random.

You’ll find your next novel, just waiting to be written.

That’s the big idea.


DELIA LATHAM is a born-and-bred California gal, raised in a place called Weedpatch and currently living in the lovely mountain town of Tehachapi with her husband, Johnny. She enjoys multiple roles as Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She has a “thing” for Dr. Pepper, and loves to hear from her readers. Contact her through her website or send an e-mail to [email protected]. Find her also at the following online locations:
Living the Write Life (blog)
Amazon Author Page
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