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,
2012 is the year of Tangerine Tango, according to the folks at Pantone. Thus, it is my year. Wait – follow me here. You see, my favorite color is orange. Has been for many years. Not Halloween orange, but a more subtle, sunny… tangerine-y hue. Whether this came about before or after an old, dear friend gave me a nickname that involved tangerines, I cannot recall. Still, orange has become a sort of…trademark of mine. I wear a lot of it, I painted the laundry room in our old house a great shade of it, I drove an orange car in High School, and my nails – usually painted orange. When you see orange – if you know me, you might just think of me. Anyway…
Ooh. Sexy, right?
When I first read the blurb of an article about the Color of the Year back in December, I was not expecting it to be a life-changing moment. Frankly, I’d seen them before (2008 was a gorgeous, deep indigo blue, I think, and 2011 was a vivid pink) and never much cared beyond the most basic ‘Gee, that’s pretty’ thought. Then I saw it.
And everything changed.
Okay, yes. Its silly. I know the choice those Pantone people made was based on all manner of data that had nothing to do with me, fate, or destiny. Yet when I saw it – I thought, “Yes! Yes. 2012 will be the year of the Tangerine Tango! And I’m just the Tangerine to do it!”
I made a decision and I’ve been acting on it ever since. I am working daily to make this year the best ever. To see my lifelong dreams come to fruition. To take that leap of faith and put my work out there for the world (or… some small part of it) to read. To change my life in positive ways. To work toward my goals. To stop procrastinating in both my personal and professional life.
Some of these broad strokes of change have been simple – I stopped biting my nails in January (a habit I’ve been trying to break since I was a kid). I gave up potato chips (my biggest food-related weakness…okay, other than Cheesecake) three weeks ago. I’ve downloaded some software to continue studying a foreign language in my spare time.
Some of them have been more complicated. I took up a challenge issued by a friend and fellow writer, Sian Young and have been writing 1500 words every day this month. I pledged to finish my WIP, Incandescence, and did! I’ve now vowed to complete the second draft and give it to beta readers. All of these in service of my overriding goal, to get my work published.
I have dreamt of that since I was seven years old and read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I have feared failure, and success, and I have allowed it to hold me back. I have hidden in a corner, afraid to show my face, for years – worried that I will never be good enough. Well no more, not in 2012. Nobody puts P.P. in a corner!
In addition to really committing myself to various changes and goals, setting deadlines and all that jazz, I’ve joined several writing communities on Facebook and have been meeting (and learning from) some amazing, talented folk. One such group is called MasterKoda.com. I don’t know that I’ve contributed much there just yet, but man oh man, I have learned a lot. For instance, using Twitter at last (follow me – @PP_TheWriter!). The amazing blogs the members put out inspired me to get back into blogging after several years of silence. I am already indebted to the members for their wit, their advice, their ideas, and their incredible support.
The indefatigable leader, Kim Mutch Emerson of MasterKoda.com, is putting on an informative online writer’s conference next week (Check it out here) and I kept clicking back to the page. I really wanted to sign up, but after a bout with the flu that forced both myself and my fiancé to miss a couple days of work… it seemed like we just would not be able to swing it. Then, a generous Koda member ran a brief ‘contest’ to win a pass to the conference and by some providence – yours truly got in before the buzzer and scored. I am so excited, and I cannot thank Catrina enough for her benevolent nature!
No, the whole point of this post was not to brag, but to celebrate! Maybe there is no such thing as fate or destiny – I’m not going to make that call. But sometimes, I think, when you really put your mind into making positive change, into moving forward, into materializing your dreams and accomplishing your goals, the universe aligns itself to help you along.
So even if you’re not a fan of tangerine (the color, or the fruit), maybe its time to take stock of what you really want out of life and make 2012 your year.
Love & Rainbows,