Sunday, January 23, 2011


I just made a classical writer's mistake. I rushed out to the family room to tell my husband the fantastic name of a new book I intend to write, starting today, and he said, “EEEYOOOGH!” Exactly the way a teenager says "EEEYOOOGH!" when you suggest he abandon his texting and start writing his term paper. Or maybe that he pull his jeans up to somewhere near his waist.

I don’t know how to spell that sound, but I recognize it when I hear it--and so do you! Every published author has heard that dismaying noise at one time or another, so we all know how it strikes the ear, even if we can't capture it letter by letter. It’s the sound of No Way, You’ve Got to be Kidding, or worse . . . That’s a Rotten Idea If I’ve Ever Heard One.

My idea for the new book fizzled like a party balloon with a tiny pin prick. The creative air seeped out, faster and faster, and I just stood there, dismayed. And finally I even said it. “Well, I’ve just broken the first rule of creativity.” Rob simply looked at me. He doesn’t know the rule, and he wouldn’t care about it if he knew. But he’ll gladly give me his first reaction to what he considers a bad title.

Have you caught on to the rule?

In case you haven’t, the rule is, Never share the first blush of a creative idea with ANYONE. Not until you’ve got it all down on paper, until the thing is mostly written and you can’t unwrite it.

If it was a dumb idea in the first place, you’ll soon know. If it wasn’t a dumb idea, you risk letting someone kill your baby while it’s still in the womb.

Everyone who writes knows this rule, and no one better than I. My inner voice said, “Don’t share this,” and I should have listened, but I didn’t, I rushed out to expose my great idea to toxic fumes. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

I finally said, “Nora Ephron’s published book is called, ‘I Remember Nothing.’ Do you think that’s a good title?" And he said No.

Well, that was some comfort, anyway. I’m sure Ephron has sold a million copies of this very funny book with the dumb title. Except I happen to love it, bad title and all.


  1. This is so true, and we know better, yet we still can't help it. It's like a secret we just can't keep to ourselves and we have to blab, to get reinforcement that our idea doesn't stink. From a British perspective, my 2nd rule of creativity would have to be: Don't go immediately back to the drawing board, have a cup of tea first :)

  2. You also can't tell people what you plan to name your babies. People will poo-poo your lovingly selected name and ruin it for you. Once the baby is born and named, they wouldn't dare make fun of it.