Spirit Of The Spec (Part 1): You Get An Idea

I had a conversation recently with a former studio executive turned producer in which I found myself talking about the “spirit of the spec,” essentially when a person chooses to pursue a project or goal entirely on speculation with the hopes of some eventual payoff. Not everybody would make that choice. To many, with the odds so long against success, doing something on spec is not only illogical, it’s also seemingly inane.

And yet almost all screenwriters, TV writers, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and poets have as some part of their creative self the spirit of the spec.

After my conversation with the producer, it occurred to me this is a subject we should discuss here at GITS because it speaks to the very core of why we’re here and what we’re about as people driven by creative impulses. So today through Friday, I will post something each day exploring what it means for a writer to have the spirit of the spec.

You get an idea.

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That’s where it all starts.

An image. A feeling. A line of dialogue. A conceit. A character.

Something that catches your fancy. Causes you to stop and think. Triggers your imagination.

Could this be a story? A novel? A movie? A TV series?

You play around with it. Tinker with it. Ask questions.

What genre is it? Who is the main character? What is distinctive about this idea? Is it big enough to sustain a feature-length screenplay? Is it any good?

But the biggest question of all you can ask is the shortest one: What if?

What if I stuck this character in that situation?
What if I made the character a female instead of a male?
What if I started out this character as far away from their goal as possible?
What if I switched genres?
What if I switched Protagonists?
What if I amped up the stakes?
What if…

And before you know it, you are watering this seed of an idea with a cloudburst from your brainstorming. Will the seed take root? Grow? Blossom into a story worth writing?

You likely will not know the answer at this stage.

Here it is just you… and your idea.

The idea may turn out to be a pathway to success. Or a dead end. But if you are a person who lives for creativity, who exists with the oftentimes bewildering ramblings of your instincts, never forget for one second the awe and mystery that is this…

Your ideas.

They are the cornerstone of everything you do as a writer.

For those who live with the spirit of the spec, ideas are our creative lifeblood, ideas are what fuel our stories, ideas are what keep our dreams alive.

How about you? What is your attitude toward your ideas? How do you engender them? How do you develop them? How do you honor them?

Tomorrow: You Act On Your Idea.

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