What? I Can Write! Ideas and Integrity

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


Ideas and Integrity

Just as ideas can come from anywhere, they can also take you anywhere you are willing to go. The only limitation is the size of your imagination. French author Paul Bourget said, “Ideas are to literature what light is to painting.” An artist’s use of light is perhaps the single most important element for evoking a particular mood or eliciting a particular response on the part of the viewer. The same basic subject can be dark, brooding and melancholy, or bright, cheerful and celebrative, solely on the basis of how the artist illuminates it. The angle and brightness of the lighting and the placement of shadows, for example, can change the entire aspect of a picture.

In the same way, writers can stir up certain emotional responses in their readers by the way they handle their ideas. Depending on how you use a story idea, no matter what it is, you can manipulate, indoctrinate, stimulate, illuminate, educate, elevate or sedate your readers. When readers willingly open their minds to what we have to say as writers, they endow us with great potential power to influence their thoughts, beliefs and worldview. But with great power comes great responsibility to handle our readers’ trust with integrity. English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said, “Ideas don’t keep. Something must be done about them.” Ideas are dynamic things; they won’t sit still. Whenever you entertain an idea, it will take you somewhere. Where it takes you depends, for good or evil, on your imagination. What you do with that idea—how you write about it—will reveal how you look at the world and how you really regard your readers. Write with integrity and always respect the integrity of those who choose to read your words. Treasure the trust they place in you and handle it with care.

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