Seriously – go write it down, right now, whatever it is. This post can wait.
That pause was for you, the reader, as well as for me. I had to go jot down an idea I had for my game. Doing this is such a basic idea that it isn’t even Dungeon Mastering 101 material. This is remedial, “bonehead,” course material, but I neglect to do this simple thing all the time. Instead of jotting something down whenever I get the first germ of an idea, often times I will tuck that little zygote away in the back of my brain, telling myself I’m going to let it incubate for a while.
Then one of two things will typically happen. Either something distracts me and I forget about whatever the idea was completely, or I do actually mull the idea over for a while, only to find that nothing new jumps out at me to flesh out the original idea. So then I tuck it away again for some more mulling, and then either something distracts me and I forget about it completely or nothing new comes to me and the zygote remains a zygote. Of course, sometimes something else will click while I’m thinking on one of these half-formed ideas and then, in those cases, something will finally hit the page.
Here is the problem: I feel like I’ve forgotten – or at least stymied and stalled the development of – some great adventure ideas because I kept waiting for some fully formed scenario to leap from my brain and on to the page. This is like waiting for the knowledge of how to build a fully realized structure to materialize in my mind before I commit to putting anything down on the blueprint. Good ideas rarely materialize in this way.
However, if I just start writing things down I often find that more ideas begin to form around what I’ve written in a way that just doesn’t happen when I keep those initial thoughts locked away in the back of my mind. Today I realized that I have been using the “mull and forget” technique all week, turning the same ideas around in my brain over and over again without making any real progress connecting those ideas or expanding on them. So I pulled out a notepad and wrote some things down. Then I wrote some more things down. And some more things after that. In about ten minutes time I had made significantly more progress fleshing out my adventure than I had made all week waiting for things to just come together in the recesses of my brain.
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, but it’s worth remembering that you’ll never see the forest if you don’t plant any trees in the first place.