Stop Crowd Sourcing Imagination

Hearken, ye. Herein dwells the frustrated rant of a writer.

I think I’m reaching a critical impatience point with certain types questions some writers ask. Or I’m getting old and crotchety and not jiving with how newbies work their creativity.

Social media is exceedingly useful for writers. There’s endless advice and interplay of ideas and support. But it is not a crutch. It shouldn’t be. Stop asking me to come up with ideas, or names or perspectives to use within the story you are writing.  This is not about group writing exercises. This is about the increasing number of people asking others to do the imagining for them for their own stories. STOP IT.

As a writer, you put your own words onto the paper K?

As a writer, you put your own words onto the paper K?

If your epic novel features the health conditions of aliens, or you are inventing weird planetary geography or making up titles for children’s programs….as a writer, YOUR JOB IS TO INVENT ALL OF THIS.


Immediately stop asking the rest of us (I mean everyone in your/our particular online writing group) to do the inventing for you, because we will and often do. It will be easy, and fun. But most of all it will absolutely kill your unique vision for your story stone cold dead in its tracks before it even gets a chance to make a life of its own out in the world as a proper and complete artefact you made.

100 Percent Done and taking a break.

100% done and taking a break.

If you run dry for ideas, do something. I mean walk, steal from Shakespeare, clean, look stuff, up, rewrite a fairy tale, meditate, dream, look at pictures, read, or forget the idea and move on. Do, at all costs, nurture your unique imagination. Exercise it like a muscle,  just don’t expect me to run creative laps for your story so you can win the publication race.

Or ask us for advice on where to find information or inspiration…but if you crowd source the actual bits of the world for your story, as written in the comments section, in one long conversation, it ceases to be your story. It will be our story.

I’ll write this again more poetically because this is important:

Whatever seed grew in the garden of your mind for a story will be in danger of being choked by the strangling weeds of our collective imagining if you ask us to help you like this. 

So, have an idea, write it down. Do the research you feel you need to do to make this story real. This doesn’t including examining everyone or a subsection of your writing group. If you really don’t understand the perspective of an alien being or a different gender, I’m fairly confident no ad hoc social media survey will help you. Accept your limitations and perhaps, write something else.

Of course, if you have written your alien health/weird geography/invented kid’s TV story and want feedback after your inventing. Sure. I’m here. That’s fine, because you have done the work. But not before.

But I/we are here when you, fellow writer, are in need of solace, celebration, or advice on expression, or grammar, or genre issues, technical support, generalised writing issues, or publishing stuff, or any of a zillion questions. Ask away. Just stop expecting us to do the secondary world building for you. That’s  your gig. And mine, and everyone else who calls themselves writers.

Rant over. As you were people.

2 thoughts on “Stop Crowd Sourcing Imagination

  1. “if you crowd source the actual bits of the world for your story, as written in the comments section, in one long conversation, it ceases to be your story. It will be our story.”

    First thought upon reading your post: So?

    You only include your own thoughts in a story? Really? You’re not influenced by the books you read and the shows/films you watch? Most everything any of us write is pretty much just regurgitations of the stuff we’ve consumed. And even if you think that’s somehow okay as long as we’re being true to ourselves or some such nonsense, what about comments from editors? Do you change your story when your editor tells you it’s not working? If not, your stories could be a lot stronger. If so, you’re kind of being a hypocrite.

    Second thought upon reading your post: No.

    My story isn’t an individual bit of research. My story is how the characters relate to each other and the circumstances. I care little for world building and feel that it plays an insignificant role in story. If I want to get help from experts on geography in creating a geographical feature, why in the world is that bad?

    • Thanks for stopping by, but I think you’ve misread me. I agree ideas are from everywhere, and I do change my stories for editors when needed – after the fact, when these stories are done, not before they are written. That is not hypocritical – it is how I think the creative process should work. I write something first, then get feedback. Not get feedback before the pen has hit the paper – which is what I was talking about above. Writers need to protect the infancy of their stories, when they are ideas, because harsh or wrong criticism could kill them. However, what I’m seeing at the moment, is a whole bunch of people demanding help for ideas, and not for their stories, because they haven’t written them yet. Surely you’d agree that the task of the writer is to come up with a story first? Yet too many people want to outsource that first bit, or they get one idea, and want everyone else to flesh it out, forgetting that this ‘fleshing out’ is the actual writing.

      I am happy to give and receive feedback on actual specific bits of written work. But these writers aren’t providing any. It is just: “I have an idea for health conditions in a story I’m about to write: can you list them all, or invent them for me?” Which isn’t my job.

      Furthermore I agree, a story is not just one bit of individual research but a synthesis of experience and knowledge and culture etc. I have never debated that. I too turn to experts for advice when I need it for details in my stories. But my point, again, is I have the story first. It is done, or at at least drafted. The people I’m talking about don’t even have that.

      Finally, you misunderstand my comment about world building. It is from Tolkien, where in one of his essays he talks about ALL writing as creating secondary worlds. So your two characters in their circumstances exist in the world of their story – the one you invented. It is secondary because it is made up. Reality (whatever the hell that is, is the primary world).

      Any who, thanks for my chance to make my points clearer:)

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