Why can't I stop having new ideas and just write the ones I already have?
Having lots of ideas is great, but what if you can't commit to finishing anything because something new and shiny keeps coming along?
'Where do you get your ideas?' is the number one question I'm asked at events, by adults and children alike. For me, there are two versions of the answer. The short version: Everywhere! and the long version, which is ... well, let's just say, are you sitting comfortably?
Ideas hit me like asteroids striking the early earth - constant and life bringing (creatively speaking). But also destructive and disastrous for any current works in progress. And they are unpredictable - sometimes hitting at a rate of more than one a day!
They really do come from all over the universe that is my brain - my first published story was inspired by an amusing comment on the podcast, The Infinite Monkey Cage, about what you'd wear if you were a ghost. My current WIP was inspired by a hotel I visited in Rome (with a bit of the Shining thrown in for good measure - yes, it's a kid's book) and I've found story ideas under the sofa, in graveyards, listening to music, and in my dreams.
Shiny New Things (SNTs) are great, as long as you don't become dazzled by them. Stories need ideas, after all. But equally, they need to end and that means you need to finish them before starting something else. Or at least, before you start ten other things.
Sure, it's difficult when all your ideas are amazing (yes they are) and they're swirling around like a maelstrom in your head. Which leads me to the first step - get them out of your brain and onto something, anything else. It's basic but effective - use a notebook, spreadsheet, index card, voice memo, whatever you need. It's not new advice, but it's good advice. Because once they are made real, you can begin to work with them.
I am a serial multi-WIP writer. I'm currently working on at least seven different books - I know, I know. I just flinched writing that down, but it's true. Writing one book is hard - I'm not sure how I expect to ever finish seven. (Note to self - take own advice.)
Here's what I'd do if I wasn't me:
Compartmentalise your ideas
Do any of them fit well together? If you were to explore these similar ideas together, would they produce complementary sparks of creativity? If so, it could save you time and energy and each product may be the stronger for it
Are any of them diametrically opposed? Could you switch from one to the other when you've exhausted your creative mojo for the first? Would switching in this way keep you writing, even if you've hit a block?
Is there an urgency to any of the ideas? Do any of them rely on grabbing onto a current trend, world event, or call from the industry? For the idea to remain relevant, would it need to be prioritised?
Once you've examined your ideas and put them into their neat little boxes, ask a further series of questions: these can be whatever you want to focus on, but for me it might be:
Which ideas are quick/small/easy? Easy wins bring with them the confidence to tackle meatier stuff
Which ideas are driven by outcomes - in other words, will I enjoy exploring this idea, or do I just want what's at the end. Then ask yourself what's more important to you right now - the end result or the process?
Which of them are just too flippin' exciting to ignore?
Overall, this will help you narrow down where you want to focus your effort, and what you might get out of it. For me, it's important to remember that (time-limited ideas aside) these ideas aren't going anywhere. There's always tomorrow. Indeed, one of the books I'm working on was an early idea of mine from 2018!
Ideas never die!
Best of luck herding those ideas - if you have any successful strategies for tackling a multitude of ideas, I'd love to hear them!
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From EmDashED Freelance Novel Editing