Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

An idea is born…

85 Comments

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” ~ Linus Pauling

When I was a little girl, I was full of ideas. Whether it was to have a money making lemonade stand, or to use my Easy Bake Oven to create a world famous bakery, I was always in search of the big idea. When I was ten, I had the idea to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records by blowing the biggest bubble with a wad of Bazooka Bubble Gum. The ideas were always endless.

One day, I was no longer a little girl and the ideas had disappeared. When I sat down to write a new story, I had nothing. Maybe what I had heard was true, ideas are like gold, they’re rare. That’s when I became obsessed with the perfect idea and the writing stopped.

Several weeks later brought the start of spring. I was still obsessing when it dawned on me; I was associating an idea with a plot. Ideas are not a plot; they are simply a seedling, planted in a garden, waiting to burst to life. The idea is only the beginning. It could be a character or place, it didn’t have to be a fully plotted story, not at this point.

Once I realized I could take any idea and ask myself a few questions, the words began to fly onto the page. Here are some of the questions I asked:

• What’s the problem?
• Who has the most to lose with this problem?
• Why is he or she so desperate about resolving the problem?
• How can I make this problem even worse for my character?

After I wrote down the answers to these questions, more questions developed and the story took off. All of these questions and answers began with one little idea. That’s the beauty of writing, there’s no such thing as a little idea or too big of a problem.

Do you think ideas are rare or are they a dime a dozen?

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

85 thoughts on “An idea is born…

  1. What a wonderful post, Jill. I’ve often questioned my aptitude as a writer because ideas seem to come so far and few between for me. The way you express it in your post, that ideas are not plots, is a relief. For too long I’ve conflated ideas with full story lines when in fact sometimes the idea is simply a phrase, an image, a random thought. What it takes is writing it down and seeing what it leads. The questions you pose are a great way to draw out the story from the seedling.

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  2. When I am trying hard to come up with a story, nothing happens. I think ideas arrive unbidden. The trick is to write them down pronto! If I wait a minute I can forget the idea completely. Great post Jill…food for thought.

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  3. I have a list of “ideas” posted on my computer but mostly I don’t use them. I sit down thinking I’m going to write about one thing and by the time I have completed the essay, it’s about something else. It’s usually better too. I can’t figure it out but I have stopped worrying that I will run out of ideas. If I do, there are always stupid people to write about.

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  4. My husband gave me a blank page journal for Christmas. Yes, I have had those before. But it means a lot to me that he acknowledges, when I’m deep in thought he knows I’m “there”. Now I carry it with me to capture those seeds before they blow away. I don’t think ideas are rare, but they do need to be captured.

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  5. You can still try for that bubble gum world record, you know. It’s never too late! 🙂
    I love writing down ideas and saving them for later, or right then if I’m inspired. Brainstorming is key to coming up with ideas or running with the ones you already have. There is no such thing as a dumb idea. Great post chica! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Maria. I’m not sure if my teeth could handle all of that sugar, they’ve been kind of sensitive lately. 🙂 I agree, there are no dumb ideas. I hope you’re feeling good and enjoying your weekend!

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  6. Yep. We are twins separated by birth. I loved my Easy Bake oven. And I had a lemonade stand, though we drank a lo of it ourselves. I also wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, but I didn’t have a skill.
    Great post!
    I get ideas for stories, but as you mentioned, ideas aren’t plots. And I’ll only follow through on maybe one or two out of thirty–if that many. I think ideas need to match your heart’s desires. Only then will you have the wherewithal to turn your ideas into something workable like a poem, a short story, or a novel or screenplay.

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    • Thanks, Linda. LOL! I used to think the Easy Bake oven was the greatest invention, even if it did seem to undercook the cakes. 🙂 Getting into the Guinness Book was a big deal to me when I was young. I remember my friend and I trying to break the record for jumping on a trampoline.
      Excellent point, ideas do need to match our heart’s desire otherwise the motivation to write might not be present. Have a great weekend!

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  7. I think we get all the best ideas when we are children, and as I am beginning to realise, education actually staunches the flow of creative thinking rather than enhances it.
    I didn’t have a lemonade stall but my friend and I once made ‘perfume’ from rose petals, water and custard powder and decanted it into old glass jam jars with pretty labels. We set up a little stall outside the house with home made signs and everything but oddly, no-one bought a thing.
    If I get ideas now, I make a note in my notebook, or I jot down something overheard. You never know when these things might come in handy!

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    • What an innovative child you and your friend were, Jenny…making your own perfume to sell. Despite the slow/no sales, it was creative indeed.
      It’s fun to go back and read the old ideas, sometimes they’ll grow into something when they hadn’t before. That’s always exciting for me. I hope you’re having a great weekend!

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  8. Jill, my daughter had an Easy Bake oven and she loved baking cakes with it! Reading this brought back many happy memories of that time.
    I breathed a sigh of relief reading this. I have some fiction assignments to complete (for my writing course which I’m trying to complete alongside blogging and writing my book!!!) and I am really struggling as I had this whole thing going on with not having any ideas, thinking that the ideas had to be the entire plot. This helps so much. Whether I’ll ever actuallly write anything more than fictional short stories remains to be seen (and musn’t get distracted by the task in hand, right?) but any great tips like this are great. so thank you!

    Have a wonderful weekend Jill 🙂

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    • I loved baking cakes too, but as I mentioned in my comment to Linda, they often seemed undercooked in the middle. Perhaps it was the baker and not the oven. 🙂
      I’m happy to have helped, Sherri. I wasn’t aware you were taking a writing course. I don’t know how you keep up with it all, but you’re doing a great job with your blog.
      Enjoy your weekend and congratulations again on your one year blogiversary!

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      • The writing course was something I started three years ago and I have until this October to complete it. It has been stop and start! I started it because I wanted to know how to submit manuscripts to editors as I really wanted to get serious about my writing. It paid off as you know with my article publication in Prima last year!
        However, once I started my blog I have been focusing more on that and now I really want to write my book as you know.
        I’ve fallen way behind on my writing course as now it is up to the fiction part which I do want to do at some point but it is something I will have to put on the back burner. However, I still love to pick up great tips from you for when that time comes, if ever 🙂
        So, in short, I really don’t keep up with it all, but I do want to keep my blog going and your support and encouragement means so much to me.
        Thanks again Jill for everything and have a lovely Sunday 🙂 x

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      • Oh yes, the writing course has most certainly paid off, Sherri! I still have my copy of the article…I loved it, as did Derek from Devon and my father. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t be motivated to complete the fiction portion of the course, since that’s not your first interest. Once you complete your memoir, I see you publishing a “How To” book on blogging…you’ve become a pro! Have a great week! xo

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      • You are too kind Jill but thanks for believing in me 🙂 You have a great week too! xo

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  9. Great tips, Jill. I have the opposite problem. My mind is so crammed with ideas, plots, characters and so forth, I could write a book a month if I could just ‘write’. What I wouldn’t give to have a slew of ghost writers working for me. Writing for me is very difficult because once I get started, I’m obsessed and can’t seem to think about anything else. When I told my husband I’d started a new book, he said okay and then he asked if I was going to hide in my office for next few months. He said I’m a little difficult to live with when I’m working on a book. Bless him, I don’t know how he stands it. And that’s why I come up with every excuse under the sun to not write. I love your answering questions plan. That would be a great way to keep your mind more focused instead of going off in a thousand different directions at once, as mine does at times.

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    • Thanks, Elizabeth. Oh, I think many writers would love to have your problem, a mind packed with ideas, characters and plots. I like that you get obsessed with your stories. My biggest problem is staying focused, but thankfully, asking the questions always get me back on track.
      Not only is your husband a patient man, but I seem to recall he’s an excellent writer himself. I’ve been waiting for him to do another “guest post.” 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

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  10. This is so true – I think it’s too easy to get caught up in trying to think up a “good” idea, when often, just going with an idea and working through it will lead to more ideas, which will eventually lead to that “good” idea you’ve been looking for. And the more you let yourself follow these ideas, the more they’ll flow for you. Or at least, that’s been my experience. 🙂

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    • I agree, often what we think is the “good” idea is only the beginning to much more. I only realized this recently through free writing. I’m new to it, but it’s been so helpful. Good to see you guys, I missed your posts on your blog! Have a great weekend!

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  11. What a great way to put it, Jill. It’s about getting the right definition sometimes. Ideas are everywhere and it’s when we ask questions about them like you’ve listed that they grow into stories. Hope you have a wonderful weekend full of new ideas! 😀

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  12. Jill, you and Jenny remind me of Lucy in Peanuts with your stalls. Like a few of your commenters I breathe a sigh of relief in that I’m not alone in wondering how and when the muse will strike. It may not but you can always tease it out by degrees.

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    • LOL! I’ve always loved Lucy in Peanuts and I’ve grown very fond of Jenny. She’s teaching me a new language. I love that what we call a stand is referred to as a stall across the pond. 🙂 You are certainly not alone, Roy, we’re all right there with you. Enjoy the weekend!

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  13. The greatest thing about fiction is every story starts as a blank slate. Taking that nugget – the premise, the idea, whatever you want to call it – and building out from there is one of the best parts of writing. The possibilities are infinite, if the left brain can shut up long enough for real creativity take hold (but I think that’s another blog topic)!

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    • That is another blog topic, Gwen. My left brain always wants to take control when I’m writing. Recently I took a test to determine which side of my brain I use the most and it said I use both sides equally. I think the test was defective. 🙂 Enjoy your weekend! I hope you all are finally thawing out.

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  14. To me, an idea is just a thought I haven’t had before – and, or course, thoughts are ongoing, constant. But because I haven’t had it before if I don’t write it down immediately chances are pretty good it will be smothered by the next thought/idea and I won’t be able to recapture it. Thus, the plethora of paper scraps, notes in magazine margins, and sticky notes that litter my house like visitors in search of a permanent home. When I grow up I want to be organized.

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    • The fear of being unable to recapture an idea seems to be ubiquitous in this post. You can be organized, Shel. I used to be the same, with post-it notes and pieces of paper all over the place, especially in my purse. If you haven’t tried using an idea journal, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t want to carry it around with you, you can record the scraps at the end of each day and toss them into the trash. Don’t forget to record the idea of watching Gone with the Wind! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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  15. Excellent, Jill! You’re asking the right questions.

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    • Thanks, Marylin. For me, the questions are a must when it comes to exploring an idea. The fun part is, I can play with it and change the answers if I feel like it. I hope you’re having a great weekend!

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  16. Hi Jill,
    When I was a little girl, I wanted to be on the radio! I did get a chance to be on a local radio station as an adult:-)
    I love the questions you ask when you put your ideas down. Keep those ideas flowing!

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  17. I love that you wanted to be on the radio when you were little…what about TV? I wonder if you made it on the radio after you ran the half marathon…that was such a great post! Have a great weekend, Elaine!

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    • Jill, I am delighted that you’re thinking that the half marathon won me a spot on the radio! No, it didn’t. However, my name was in the newspaper with all the other participants:) I might have had to use a magnifying glass to see it. The radio spot was in 1992- my husband and I helped to host for an hour. It was the day before Hurricane Andrew. I’m glad you enjoyed my post on the half marathon.

      About being on TV- we didn’t have television when I was growing up. I appeared twice on TV in the U.S 🙂

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      • So, not only have you been on the radio, but you’ve been on TV not once, but twice. I’m honored to have a celeb making appearances on my blog. 🙂 I don’t recall reading about your TV appearances on your blog. Inquiring minds would like to know… 🙂

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      • LOL! Nothing much to talk about. The TV news camera panned the lobby where I used to work and a very pregnant me showed up on the news. The next time- another employer was a major part of a televised fundraising event and I was selected to be part of the team that was designated to answer the phones. The camera zoomed in on me when I asked the fundraising news person (pardon the description) to ask the university community to donate:) No celebrity status, my dear!

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      • Well, you’re a celebrity in my book, Elaine. 🙂

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  18. Interesting. I remember way back when I first sat down to try writing fiction, I found that trying to come up with an idea seemed very difficult. What I discovered over the course of getting an idea and then writing a book was that our imaginations grow stale over time as we age. As children, we dream, imagine, and think of ideas all the time. But as we grow older, many of us stop using our minds for creative things. For those of us unlucky enough to have gone through this process, when the mood strikes we find that it can take quite a bit to get those ideas flowing. Funny thing, it always seems the more you write the more your imagination is exercised and the better it works. Go figure.

    Have a great weekend, Jill.

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    • So true, Dave. I had big ideas as a child. I sure wish I had my ideas journal handy back then. 🙂 I agree 100%, the more we write, the more the ideas flow. My challenge lately has been going back to my written project and edit…not a big fan. Happy New Year to you and your family, Dave!

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  19. I followed you back Jill and enjoyed reading your two latest posts.

    We are a family of book lovers – I have a daughter who works for a book publisher. She is an absolute bookaholic and has real difficulty culling her collection and so I understand your attachment to books very well.

    On ideas, though not looking to get published, I am rich in them and often find myself paralysed because of the over abundance. I have recently returned to my first love of painting and right now am unable to start a new one due to an excess of possibilities whirling about in my head ….. 🙂 The best thing I have found in the past is to just pick up a brush, or a pencil and start! Must try that!

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    • Thanks, Pauline. Your daughter has my dream job. I would love to work for a book publisher and be surrounded by books each day. I wonder if she’s a writer like her mother…

      How exciting for you to return to your paining. I hope that you’ll post some of your work on your blog. Best of luck to you!

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      • Thanks Jill, that is a kind thing to say 🙂 My ED loves her job, she gets to travel a lot and meet some great writers – and of course an endless array of new books must be read! I do post about my paintings – just not the last couple of posts when more interesting things have been happening….. Thank you for the follow, it is lovely to have a new friend 🙂

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      • Your daughter is very blessed, what a wonderful job. I’ll look forward to more of your posts and your paintings. Have a great week, Pauline!

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  20. Excellent post Jill. I do believe ideas are not rare, they appear and if we are unable to capture them sometimes they just fly away never to be captured again. I find it better to write them down, and sometimes when I read them later on I find it hard to believe they came to my mind. Some are brilliant and some start innocently and can turn dangerous in no time when you start working towards them. LOL remember the investigative story I was working at and my hero turned out to be the villain. Now that almost turned too dangerous for me. I stopped work on it right there and then for personal safety, I cannot give you the full details but most of them are comical. But God I have never felt so sheepish and cowardly ever in my life -backing off from my own hard worked story. It’s life and every moment is a learning moment for us. So my advice to myself is carefully weigh the idea before putting it into full practice. I loved to bake cakes with my best friend and mine was most of the times over cooked or under cooked but our mom’s used to eat them pretending to thoroughly enjoying them. Oh Jill your post always takes me back down memory lane and puts a big smile on my face. Thanks for this my friend. You are precious. Take care.

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Samina. You’re so funny…your hero turning into the villain, now that’s an interesting plot twist. 🙂 I’m sure you did the right thing by backing away from the story, but no doubt it was very difficult. Perhaps one day you’ll go back to it. I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday. Have a wonderful week, Samina. xo

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  21. Children always have great ideas (and amazing imaginations) and I think it’s pretty sad that we tend to lose that kind of inspiration as we grow older. The best way to get ideas is to think like a child (my hubby can do that pretty well – LOL).

    I love your dot point number 4 and can fully relate. Just when my characters think things can’t get any worse I throw another spanner in the works 😀

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    • LOL..I like that your husband thinks like a child, it will keep him young. 🙂

      It’s so good to see you back on your blog, Dianne. You’ve been missed by so many. Working on three books…that’s amazing! I can’t wait to see some of your great photographs. I’m hoping it will include a photo of your new writing studio. I’m sure it’s beautiful.

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  22. It’s so difficult to say! I think it depends on whether you are open to them or not– I find that my best ideas just spring up out of nowhere. I keep so many notes in my iPhone for future stories and blog posts and projects. I think that perhaps ideas are not things of substance, rather our minds/perspectives make anything and everything transform into ideas based on how receptive we are to that process. I feel that I could use a metaphor from chemistry but alas, I think I got a C in that class.

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  23. I think it depends on the idea. I have a ton of silly ideas, “Like I should run to the store and buy more chocolate.” When it comes to writing, you have a great attitude and are asking great questions.

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  24. My sense is that ideas are plentiful — they are like a piece of music that is constantly playing, and all I need to do is choose to listen to it, which is a more difficult choice than it might appear on the surface, since there are so many distractions in the world competing with and drowning out the music (if I let them). And then of course there’s the matter of having the initiative to do something about an idea. But I feel like I’m developing more and more of that over time.

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    • Ah, yes…the initiative, that’s critical when it comes to developing an idea. Good for you, Chris, I’m happy to hear you’re developing more of your idea. It sounds as though it’s paying off. Congratulations on your latest project!

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  25. hah, I remember those days of lemonade stands, etc. Poor kids today aren’t even allowed to have them! For me, ideas keep flowing. I have a hard time keeping them in check, so I am bad at waiting, for instance, unless I have a book or iPad to occupy me, because I keep thinking up stuff and not being able to do anything about it all hahaha.

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    • Are kids today not allowed to have them or are they too busy with texting and video games, to be bothered? I did hear recently about a young girl who had a lemonade stand and raised over $300 for a local charity. Here’s to keeping your ideas flowing, Luanne…so your head doesn’t explode. 🙂 Have a great week!

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      • Haha, yes, many places kids can’t have them. They are told to close them up. They need a food license or something.

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  26. The Universe sends us a steady supply – how to grab the precious ones!
    Just lost 2 weeks of blogs to ‘spam’ (for some unaccountable reason) so starting out fresh in 2014. Sorry if I missed some of your lovely posts…

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    • You’re right, Billy, there is a stead supply. Sorry to hear about your ‘spam’ issues. Lately I’ve had more ‘spam’…makes me nervous. Happy New Year to you and your lovely wife. Congratulations on your latest book! Hum…how could I get an autographed copy of an e-book? 🙂

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      • I hereby acknowledge that this is my autograph for Jill Weatherholt, a dear sweet friend, to be copied and pasted on some corner of her laptop screen that displays my latest book, “Joe Public’s Political Perspective.” – Either that or I simply have sent to you the book from the publisher (I keep no supply of my books on hand) on which you paste the autograph… your call!
        Thank you, dear lady…enjoy your posts so much.
        Billy Ray

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      • Thanks, Billy! I’ve copied and pasted! Thanks for all of the Tweets, even though I’m embarrassed to say, I still haven’t grasped the world of Twitter. I need another 12 hours in my day. 🙂

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  27. Hi Jill, I’ve seen your face about the blogasphere commenting on fellow writer’s blogs, but have only just managed to venture to your site! You’ve raised an interesting question. I think great ideas are rare and we have to keep ourselves receptive to them so we don’t miss them. This means observing and being in the moment. Ideas can come from so many aspects of our lives if we allow them to. Great to connect – Gemma.

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  28. I think ideas happen more often then we think, we just don’t write them down and then they slip out of our mind. I keep an ideas folder so that I can keep each gem to revisit later. I’m known to leave myself voicemails or email myself ideas from my smart phone too. 🙂

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  29. Hi Jill,
    After exchanging the emails with you, I got tempted to check out your blog. And I’m glad I did. A mere idea can spawn stories and novels if we give it enough thought, ask questions and have fun with it. The idea that produced my novel was “I fell in love with my neighbor.”

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    • Hi Rajni! I’m so happy you stopped by. I still can’t believe you live right down the road from me. I look forward to meeting you and Gwen, in person, in February. We’ll have to make sure Charlotte produces some nice weather for Gwen. She deserves it after enduring the Chicago winter. Okay, after reading the idea the sparked your novel, I’m ready to read it now! Do you have a blog?

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      • I don’t have a blog yet. I am a bit slow with technology! Maybe I will send you the draft sometime before our get together. Gwen and you can send me what you are working on and we can have a workshop when we meet.

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      • This blog is about as high-tech as I get, Ranji! I still have a flip-phone! 🙂 I would love to read your draft anytime you’d like to send it. I don’t think you’d want me to send my current WIP. Right now it’s a 200 page mess. I do have a short story, that I’ve considered turning into a novel, that I wouldn’t mind yours and Gwen’s input.

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  30. I love your pragmatic approach to writing, Jill. I’m pretty sure it’ll work for you, too 🙂

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  31. Pingback: The Knitter and Mashed Potatoes | 1WriteWay

  32. Hi Jill,
    Ideas come to me all the time. What is really exceptional is the ability and determination to follow through on those ideas until one has a completed manuscript. And then to follow through on that manuscript until it is sold or published one way or another. And then to follow through on the marketing of that completed book. I have great respect for any author who has accomplished all those things, whether I care for their writing, style or subject matter or not.

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    • Hi Naomi, Oh, I agree 100%. Whether I like a writer’s style or not, I admire the fact that they were able to start with a seed and end up with a garden. It’s a long process that requires endurance. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend!

      On Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 4:59 PM, Jill Weatherholt wrote:

      >

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  33. I think ideas are plentiful; I wake up full of ideas every morning. Doing something with them? Well now, that’s a different story. I’ve been nurturing the idea of a family photo gallery in my hallway for probably eight years now. Bought an assortment of frames. Put up wainscoting on the bottom portion of the walls to “anchor” the pictures. The frames have moved from closet to closet and back; the wainscoting needs a new coat of paint. Oh! And I’ve added hundreds (thousands?) of digital pictures to my unsorted collections…

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