Recently, a friend in a writing group asked a question that plagues me as a writer.
How do you avoid the temptation of a shiny, new idea while you’re in the middle of writing/editing your WIP?
I have no good answer for that.
Historically, I can say that I have been notorious for dropping one project like its hot to snatch up the latest idea in my brain. Usually, that means both end-up unfinished and I’m off to a third idea. This is the reason, if you click on my “WIPS” page, you will see seven listed projects – in addition to Incandescence, my current focus. Seven does not begin to cover the irons I have in the fire. In fact, before this page is published, I am going to add a third section to that page just to remind myself of all the stuff I have to finish! Hopefully it’ll turn out to be motivating rather than overwhelming. We shall see.
Anyway – the original question is an important one. How do we avoid the temptation to move onto something new?
- Absolute Denial: you can completely ignore those new thoughts & ideas to maintain focus on your WIP. Of course, you could be missing out on your magnum opus.
- Calculated Pause: give yourself a measured amount of time to scribble out notes on your new idea and when it runs out, back to the WIP.
- Full Stop: take a break from you WIP and give your full attention to the new idea.
- Split Attention: write both!
For me, I can immediately strike Absolute Denial and Split Attention from the list. I abhor the idea of not, in some way, recording inspiration when it strikes. I carry around a notebook and pen at all times, for just such an emergency. And – should I be caught without said items, I always have my phone on my person and I frequently text cryptic ideas to my email address. Still worse, is trying to focus on two distinct storylines, sets of characters, worlds… I have to concentrate on my book’s cannon lest I end up with scenes (as had happened in past works) in which a previously murdered side character is chiming in on the group’s new plan to escape. Not ironically or as a ghost, but because Split Attention allowed me to forget what had happened to her.
I’m the same way when reading. I prefer to stick to one thing at a time and focus on it and do it ‘right’, rather than read half-a-dozen willy-nilly. When I was a kid, I did that all the time and kept it straight. These days, I’d probably end up confusing Mr. Darcy with Mr. Frodo and wondering why he was spending so much time with the ladies when there was a ring to toss into Mount Doom.
Full Stop must also be stricken from my list. If I Full Stop – I end up Full-Never-Get-Back-To-Previous-Work. As my list of WIPs illustrates nicely.
This year, once Incandescence and its sequel are finished, no matter many lovely new characters pop into my head, I am making it my goal to practice the Calculated Pause. Take notes on new ideas and put them into the pot for safe keeping, then immediately back to the WIP. The WIP takes precedence. Total focus. Total dedication.
And now I have Meghan Tonjes’ song in my head again.
(I’d link that song now, but I’m sharing her in a week for Tuesday’s Tunes post, so… you can wait… or Google her… or click here.)
Love & Rainbows,