I often hear writers spend an inordinate amount of time talking about their search for the great idea. I do it myself. Often, we get frustrated at rejection letters from The Toilet Paper Review or the fact that managing editor at Headbanging Accordion magazine won’t return our phone calls and we blame it on the lack of a good idea. I certainly do that myself. I tell myself I just haven’t hit upon the perfect idea, the perfect pitch that will cause the mastheads of glossy New York magazines to open before my triumphant entrance.
But there is a critical concept that shouldn’t get lost here. As aspiring writers, fiction or nonfiction, it is incumbent upon us to make the editors want our ideas. It’s probably a longshot, but if I’m really on my game, then I should be able to convince the nice folks at Ladies Home Journal that they can’t live without an article extolling the virtues of Japanese bukkake films. It’s my job as a writer to convince editors of the strength of my ideas and stories.
In preview of our interview with Jay McInerney this week, here’s a sneak-peek at a quote where he touched upon this very subject.
“There’s no such thing as a good idea or a bad idea,” McInerney said. “There’s good execution and bad execution. Saying ‘yeah I’ve got a story about twenty-four hours in the life of an Irish Jew who wanders around the city and doesn’t do much of anything’ doesn’t sound like a good book. But if it’s Ulysses, it’s a good book.”
It’s natural to want to devote tremendous amounts of time and energy into crafting the perfect idea. And it’s easy to think that if you get just the right idea, everything else will come easily. But what we really need to focus on is perfecting the execution.