Crazy Ideas

When writing, should you use your ‘crazy ideas’?

Down below all the draft chapters of my new novel in my precious Scrivener writing program, I noticed a folder I entitled “Crazy Ideas.” I had stashed every outlandish plot idea that I had thought of in case I had the courage enough to actually use it. When I originally jotted down these ideas, I had doubted that any of them would ever make it into my manuscript.

I was wrong. All of them made it.

Why? And was it the right choice?

Let me explain the ‘why’ first. As the plot of my book unfolded, I had decisions to make: do I play it safe or do I try to push the envelope on this plot, making it more complex, more intertwined with additional layers of intrigue. Or should I play it safe and forget the crazy stuff because there is a risk to writing using the crazy ideas.

What risk?

Will I be able to make it all work?  Will it make sense? Will I be able to make sense of it? Will it stray out of plausibility and into unbelievable coincidence? Will it make the plot too dense, too heavy with overlapping objectives?

All of these are tangible risks of trying the crazy ideas. But I realized that I couldn’t do it any other way. If my novel is going to burn up under its own weight, it’s going to go down fighting with all its potential visible and apparent to the reader.

And now, as I’m writing the final few chapters of the book, I’m feeling the strain of my decisions. It’s hard making sure all the strands of this book will come together in a tidy and coherent fashion. It will take a lot of thinking, rewriting, revising, and good old-fashioned luck to pull this off. I’m going to try the best I can, which leads us to the final question.

Was using the crazy ideas the correct choice?

This ultimately will be a question for my readers.


Writing Anywhere. No Pen, No Computer Needed.

Writing is one of the most versatile passions anyone can have. To be productive, you need nothing but your brain and a little time.

Paper is helpful at some points.

Of course, a laptop is even more helpful.

But neither of those are needed. No. Not at all, or at least until “eventually” comes around. All you really need to be productive is an active mind and time to let it explore.

Here’s what I mean. I’m currently working on a variety of writing projects including book two of my first trilogy, a Christmas show for 2017, and a variety of other play ideas. But lately, I’ve been swamped and have had no time to actually write. Yes, it’s killing me, because I want to get back to the stories. I want to push them forward. I want to explore where they are going and how everything will piece together in the end. But, life happens. Weekend baseball trip to Bangkok, theatre projects, rehearsals, work requirements, etc… and I’m stuck looking at another day checked off the calendar without a word written.

But it’s all right. Calm down. Everything is not lost because writing is the most flexible of passions. The crucial element of writing is thinking. A writer must ponder, must weigh options, must zigzag around in the mind before the pen ever hits the paper. And that, the pondering, the zigzagging can happen anywhere at anytime. A stray thought during the day can bring a character to mind and make me wonder about what will happen next. A daily happening can lead to new ideas. The other day, one of the readings from my social studies class I teach talked about a certain type of snake. It jolted my memory of something I’ve written in book two of my novel series, and I started to ponder if I could actually use that snake in my story. I thought about throughout the day as I complete many tasks not related to writing. Finally, I concluded that it would be a wonderful idea and can really add to the story.

Now, have I actually added  it to the story yet? No. Like I said. No time. But I have furthered my writing. I do this many times in many different situations. Allowing your writing mind to connect to what you do in every day life is a great way to move things along and be productive  even when you have no time to actually be productive.

So I guess the bottom line is this: write at all times. When possible, use a computer.



When the ‘Something’ becomes Obvious: A Writing Revelation

Nearly two years ago, as I was meeting with my drama troupe to brainstorm some ideas for out Christmas show, someone said, “Hey, why don’t we do something with the twelve days of Christmas.” I said okay, opened my laptop, started WORD, and named a document “Something of the Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The document was completely empty except for the title.

And so it sat for the past one and half years.

Until yesterday.

I was working on a musical piece for Christmas 2017, yes I work ahead, and when I finished revising some lyrics, I saved the piece and cruised quickly through the document folder. I came across some “unfinished ideas” and I saw the title “Something of the Twelve Days of Christmas.” And as I read that document title, I suddenly know what the ‘something’ was. It was obvious, plain, easy, right within sight. All I had to do was start writing.

I did.

Thirty minutes later I had fleshed out my idea and then today I nearly finished the first draft of this new piece called “The Twelve Days of Christmas Revisited.”

It’s going to be a really funny and fun piece to produce. I just find it strange that for a year and a half I didn’t know what the ‘something’ was, but yet yesterday, it was as plain as a blinking beacon on top of the Eifel Tower.

Why? Why did I know what to write yesterday but I didn’t have a clue what to write a year and a half ago when I was first presented with this idea?

I have no idea.

That’s the mystery of creativity. It rears its head unexpectedly. It cannot be summoned or ordered into the court of creativity. It bursts through the doors as it sees fit, in its own timing, at its own pace, with its own ideas.

I love that.

I don’t always love that. Sometimes I want the inspiration to rest heavily on my shoulders like Milton—a divine light from the heavens revealing its truth—but creativity is the most finicky of hobbies. The only thing a creative person can do is:

  • Attempt when the inspiration hasn’t hit.
  • Write down ideas, even vague ones.
  • Be patient.
  • Press forward with inferior ideas, hoping that one poor idea will lead to one better idea.
  • Wait some more.

If you do that, the ‘something’ will come back around. It will define itself and you’ll be in the position to write or create something meaningful. That’s all you can hope for.

Now get waiting!




The Germination of Creative Thought

I had one of those eureka creative moments this afternoon. They don’t come around too often, but I love them when they do unexpectedly overwhelm me.

I get creative thoughts all the time. Most of them develop slowing, typically while I’m working on something. One thought will lead to another and the creative process will takes it slow and winding time down the avenue of creativity in my mind.

But today, it wasn’t one  of those slow developing thoughts. It was a brilliant connection in my mind, which immediately led to a distinct image, and a specific plan of how I wanted to do something.

Why do these eureka moments happen? How can I replicate them more often?

I have no idea.

Here’s how this one worked. Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague and we made some production plans for next year. After that meeting, I knew I wanted to find an idea for writing a new short musical which would match with our goals. Nothing was coming to me.

I was in the middle of grading some papers, a mind-numbingly boring task, so I put in some music in the background. My thoughts wandered back and forth between the songs and the papers in front of me. I hadn’t given the musical any type of thought for the entire day.

One song came on and when I heard the chorus for the first time, my brain lit up and I saw this image in my mind and I knew what I had: I had discovered the idea for my musical. It was based on the song title. It was brilliant. I started drawing a picture of it, then I wrote done some associated words, and  before I knew it, I had written a couple lines of sample lyrics. It was a creative epiphany.

Why did it come at that moment? I have no idea. It’s not the first time I had heard this song. But it is the first time I heard this song under the circumstances of wanting to find an idea for a musical. I haven’t even listened to that album for a long time, but it struck an amazing, creative chord this time.

So are creative ideas like this completely random?  Or did I sow the seeds of this idea by what I was discussing yesterday?

There’s no real way to know the answer to those questions. But I wish I could, because I’d love to replicate the eureka creative moments as often as possible, because it is so cool when it becomes that clear.

Ideas for Indie Authors: A Novel is Chasing Me. I’m Losing. (and Winning)

When good ideas impregnate the mind, why fight them?

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had a novel idea, actually related to novel-writing, and I haven’t been able to shake it. Even in the midst of revising novel #5, which was supposed to be my priority, this new idea has consumed me every free moment that I’ve had.

When I go to the store, I’m thinking if the characters drink whole milk or skim. When I’m in my bedroom, I’m thinking about this little flying thing that annoys one of the characters and wonder what it would be like to have that happen. (Sorry, I can’t divulge what I’m talking about there.)

And the plot – it’s embarrassingly exposed – like I downloaded the novel’s Cliff Notes and have been cheating on my writing. It’s seemed so easy, so smooth – the dialogue, the characters, the setting – all laid bare in front of me.

This is the type of inspirational groove that I hope never leaves me.

So why am I losing? Because I’ve lost control of all other parts of my life because of this novel.

So why am I winning? Because I love writing this novel and have had so much fun putting it together.

Why has it been so easy so far?

Perhaps it’s an unimportant question that I shouldn’t try to answer. Just count it as a blessing and enjoy it while it lasts.

But I have to say that I might know what’s going on. In this novel, I’m starting from a premise that is completely unlike me. It dabbles in the supernatural and fantasy genres which, if you’ve read any of my writings, you know if not what excites me. I like real, down-to-earth human stories.

However, this unique premise has allowed me to tell a human story in a very different way. It has led to new discoveries and new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of anyways. And while the end result will be different from much of my other works, the reader will undeniably see the same creative Sasse hand at the helm.

So if your inspiration is stuck firmly in a hole filled with quick-drying cement, shake things up a little. You might find yourself losing a lot of time on a winning idea.

Letting Ideas Become Other Ideas

Ideas are not static. There’s a constant ebb and flow to them and any sort of creative artist has to take advantage of the movement of ideas in order to fully develop the original thought.

I’m learning to do this better than I did in the past. Many times I would have a writing idea, I’d write it and then move on to something else. But I’ve come to realize that I might be missing a lot of potential by not putting the necessary thinking into a topic.

Here’s a couple examples:

First, as I mentioned before on this site, my fourth, yet-to-be released novel, A Love Story for a Nation, is a story based on a short 10-minute dramatic sketch. When I started to look at the structure and underlying themes of the short piece, it became obvious to me that it needed a longer treatment and I’m actually thrilled with how the novel has turned out. One idea – two works! That’s pretty cool.

I’m currently working on a short musical about the end of the world. It’s been stalled and started several times, but it’s coming along. A while after I started it, a friend ask me to write a dramatic duet for a forensics competition. I was happy to do it, but I needed an idea. I went back through some of my unwritten ideas for some inspiration and I eventually decided to take the musical I was writing, completely change the characters and setting, but keep the underlying theme and suddenly, within two hours, I had my short sketch called “Words to Say at the End of the World.” It’s a heartfelt piece I really like and I never would have gotten there if I didn’t piggy-back off of my musical. On top of that, sing I have a mini-musical and a dramatic sketch on the same topic – the end of the world – I got to thinking that perhaps I could develop idea into a full-blown thematic play. I just might do it. It has a lot of potential.

So if you are a writer and ever get stuck with what to write next, my advice is to go back to what you already have. You might find a hidden gem of an idea that can fuel your next writing session.

What does a successful writing session look like?

Yesterday, I posted a silly philosophical rant prior to sitting down and writing out an idea that I had for a short play.

I probably jinxed myself because I went on about how within the next two hours I would be “changed” because of the inspiration which I just put down on paper.

I currently must have egg on my face because my magical two hour writing session fizzled. So I tried again this afternoon on the same idea and nothing. I just went back and forth with various ideas, but I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on any of them. It just didn’t feel right.

This is quite rare for me. When I sit down to write, typically 1000-3000 words will fly off the keys with remarkable ease. But it just didn’t happen. Does that mean my writing sessions of yesterday and today were unsuccessful?

Not in the least.

I’ve said this before, but I really believe it. Writing is mainly done in the head – in your mind and thought-process. Sometimes the idea is so tangible that the mind goes and the fingers have trouble keeping up. But other times the mind needs to slowly gander along the winding river of creativity to see what is currently in bloom. It needs to explore certain dark, dusty avenues to clear out the cobwebs. It needs to remain noncommittal, so the thought process has time to mature and be ready to spring forth.

This is not writer’s block. This is mental writing.

For all my time and effort, I may only have two different starting points of my play – each with about 200 words – but I am putting in some serious think time to see which, if any, is the way forward with this idea.

It’s not always bad to walk away from a writing session without much tangible proof that you have actually been writing.

It’s OK to step back and let your mind sort things out. I’m pretty sure that you will one day be rewarded for your patience. I’ll let you know when this particular play has finally worked its way out of my mind.


Write What’s on Your Heart

Writing is the most heart-revealing exercise I’ve ever been involved with.

The writing process bares the soul, and makes the writer ponder deep and hard about the hidden caverns which need exploring but which the writer may be too squeamish to approach.

I truly believe what my college literature professor said that a reader should not and cannot judge a writer by what he or she writes. Unless the writing is meant to be autobiographical, then one cannot assume that the point of view of a character or the voice of a poem is indeed one and the same as the writer’s.

While that may be true, I do also believe that the writing process in itself reveals the writer’s heart. And while the final result may not be autobiographical, the writing itself can not completely wriggle itself free from the desires, struggles, and feelings of the writer.

Last weekend I posted how I felt that my brain had been hi-jacked by an idea for a play that I couldn’t shake. The thoughts kept gnawing at me to the point where I could not concentrate on the story I had been working on. So I set aside novel number four and just started writing what was on my heart.

This particular topic was difficult for me to write for a variety of reasons. I didn’t really want to write this play, but again, I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t particularly like where the play was going, but again, I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t like the one character; I didn’t like the dialogue I felt was necessary for that character; I didn’t want to continue, but I keep writing every day over that weekend.

A week later, the play is out of my mind, sitting there ruminating on the pages. But I am free from it, for now.

This whole process taught me an important lesson: writers should just write what is on their hearts. For one, it can be a cathartic experience just getting your thoughts explode and explore on paper. Sometimes simple expression is all that is needed, regardless of whether the writing will or will not end up as a published work.

Secondly, writing what’s on your heart forces you to be honest with yourself. It requires a lifting of judgment or prejudice and allows freedom of expression. What’s great about writing is that there is no rule that says what you write has to be shared with anyone. Perhaps no one will ever see this play, but I’m glad I wrote it.

Lastly, the heart is often times the genesis of the process of creative discovery. I am always more passionate about topics which are close to me. The other day someone told me that I should write a YA novel. I basically responded ‘no’ and that I have no desire to do so. It’s not that I have anything against YA, it’s just that nothing has ever been impressed on my heart that would fit into that category. Why would I want to force the issue just because it’s a popular genre? I don’t think I’ll ever be that kind of writer. Above all I have to be true to myself. I think the best writer’s always are.

And as far as I know, truth is always not too far from the heart.

So if you ever get stuck and don’t know what to write next, look internally. There’s something there ready to come out.

Like my unexpected play.