What? I Can Write! Keep Your Purpose in Mind

“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson

Keep Your Purpose in Mind

As a writer, you must learn to be ruthless, at least with yourself. One consequence of a fertile mind is that it is always creating and producing, generating new thoughts and ideas and pondering new possibilities. This can both good and bad; good because creative thinking—imagination—is the lifeblood of a writer; bad because not everything your mind produces will be worth using, either now or ever. Much of it will be, though. Great ideas pop up all the time in the process of writing as the “fruit” of a fertile mind. If a new idea supports your theme, plot, or premise, run with it. The problem, however, is that even many of those “good” ideas will not be usable in your current writing project; they simply won’t fit.

This is where you have to be ruthless. When you are writing, keep your purpose clearly in mind. Fix your eyes on the goal and resist the temptation to chase the rabbit of that great idea you just had but which has no useful or functional place in the present piece you are writing. Be ruthless; discard those ideas for present use, but record them for possible future use elsewhere. Don’t ever throw out perfectly good fruit simply because you can’t use it right away; it may provide the seed for another great piece later on. Just as a fruit tree or grapevine must be pruned of excess growth so that more and better fruit can be produced, so you as a writer must prune your ideas and thoughts. Toss out the bad ones, preserve in the “fruit cellar” for future use the good ones that are not immediately applicable, and use only that fruit which advances the purpose of the piece you are writing.

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