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Save Your Ideas, Even the Shitty Ones

Why You Should Hold on to Ideas That Are Trash

I have a Google document filled with ideas that are dumb AF.

The page is technically a place where I go to word vomit just about any idea that strikes me, even the bad ones.

When I was a graduate student, so many journalism professors encouraged us to kill our darlings. A source could have given us several really good kicker quotes but we only have space for one.

We’d have to just pick our favorite one and throw the others away.

And though it works for a lot of journalism and for quick turnaround class assignments… I like to think that my throw away ideas have a place in this world. I just have to find it.

Earlier last year, I wanted to write about bodegas. But I wanted to write from a personal or cultural perspective. I just wrote an outline of the kind of things I’d write in a personal bodega piece in my Google document.

This September the Bodega startup that was described by many on Twitter as level 9 gentrification blew up on social media. I opened my document and figured out how to form a pitch using the viral startup idea that was drawing a lot of criticism from immigrant communities.

I pitched that night and eventually had a piece up on NPR about why bodegas are important to immigrant neighborhoods and to my identity as a Caribbean Latina. If I didn’t have an outline of a bodega idea in my Google document, I don’t think I would have been able to pitch so quickly.

That online essay made me $250 dollars.

It also made me take an idea off my Google document, which now makes it easier to work on the other potential posts.

That particularly crappy idea may combine itself with another and make a better one. Something pertaining to the idea may go viral. You can write a better, more timely article or personal post on a platform like Medium.

Don’t throw away your shit ideas.

Work on keeping track of them in either a Google doc, a Word document, or a spread sheet. Try to sort them by category or bold the main topics so that you know what you’re looking for right away.

Will you be able to use all of your side ideas? Maybe you won’t.

But can you use many of them if you keep an open mind and try to incorporate them into different posts… definitely.

You can always set a goal to try to utilize a quarter of ideas. Don’t necessarily force yourself to use them all, don’t make this a punishment. Using the random idea document is like a useful junk drawer. Make it fun for yourself. Once I began seeing my document that way, I became so much more excited about all of the potential stories there.

Make it a writing adventure for 2018.

My half baked idea Google document has helped me through slower freelancing months, which is amazingly important since I’m still growing my online following and improving my freelancing skills.

It’s made me work smarter and not just harder, which is important since my schedule includes I’m writing here on Medium, producing podcast episodes for clients, doing photography, and pitching ideas to just about every website I can.

So fellow reader (and writer), don’t kill your darlings. Tie ’em up and save them for later. Resuscitate them. Frankenstein the hell out of them.

But what ever you do, don’t give up on them so easily.

What’s one idea you couldn’t get rid of? Also let me know what kind of topics you look forward to writing for 2018.

Good luck!

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