There comes a point in every writer’s life – actually, make that day – when they have to fight temptation. The temptaton and distraction of the new idea.
It usually occurs when you’re halfway through a particularly difficult story/feature/manuscript/sentence/word. You’re in there, wrestling away, trying to wrangle the words into submission – or at least some form of sense – when it appears. A New Idea. A bright, shiny, seductive, full-of-promise New Idea.
“Look at me!” it shouts. “I’m fabulous.”
“Listen to me,” it whispers, “I’m fully formed and ready to go.”
“Come to me,” it tantalises. “I’ll never be boring, or difficult, or just plain dumb.”
It’s a siren song. Particularly when the current work in progress is looking boring, difficult and dumb. When you can’t see how it’s ever going to work. Whether it be 500 words or 50,000 words.
The new idea is better. You just know it.
Only, it’s not. Because you’ll get halfway through that project and find yourself in exactly the same place – casting around for something, anything, to distract you. And then you become that writer. The one with half-finished manuscripts stuffed under the bed. The one who couldn’t ‘resolve’ the work and so gave up on it. The one for whom the next idea is always going to be better.
The best idea is the one that results in a finished piece of writing. Once you have a complete draft down on paper – be it that sentence or that novel – then, and only then, can you consider the charms of the New Idea. Take the time to jot down its essence, by all means (it’d be terrible to lose that fabulous thought all together), and then put it aside and go back and finish the Idea you’re working on. The one that used to be the New Idea.
I wrote this post tonight to remind myself to focus on one thing at a time. Trying to catch all the New Ideas just makes a girl crazy. Are you distracted by the next idea? How do you deal?
I feel I was purposely meant to read this post today – I’ve been pressed for time lately but was missing reading my favourite bloggers so purposefully picked yours to catch up on. And this speaks volumes to me! I am FULL of ideas but not so full of concentration to finish one before the other starts. And hence I always have half finished projects hanging like a loose noose around my neck.
Now I will go forth with these wise Fibro words ringing in my ears.
THANK YOU, as always x
“The best idea is the one that results in a finished piece of writing.” ~ thank you Allison, I really needed to hear that right now.
I love and needed this post! My friends and I call this the shiny pretty thing syndrome.
Thanks for helping me it here!
Love it! I call it the ‘Short Story Syndrom’ where basically everything one writes turns into the shortest possible version so they can get on to the next great idea.
Friend of mine calls it ‘addicted to future’…indeed!
Fantastic topic which has really hit a nervecwith readers here. I have anew idea for a book but am forcing it back because I need to take care of my three babies already written. Books take so much nurturing aftervthey are printed! Took me ages to work that out..
I think I only have one idea. If that doesn’t work, I’m scuppered!
A perennial problem.
When it comes to writing, I jot down new ideas in my phone.
I think Stacia is right for when you’re struggling – just get down the gist of what you want to say, and come back and pretty it up later. No point letting it hold you up for too long.
I’m often distr—–oooh look! new idea!
Ha ha. But I’m often found rearranging the pantry when I’ve gone to get one thing and suddenly thought how much easier it would be, for instance, to have all the sugar types together, all the vinegar types together, all the rice types together, when a previous rearranging saw me putting entirely different arrangements together for “ease”.
Oh it’s a constant stress for me. So many ideas, so little time, and which ones are best? When to continue with something when the New Idea is beckoning? When to go with it?
I don’t have the answers but it’s nice I’m not the only one to be tempted!
great post Alison! even though you’ve written it from a “writers” perspective, i think this is great advice for crafters or any other creative type! So many times i’ve cast away an unfinished project because my mind was racing at something better! so many works in progress going on! thanks for the motivation that the real aim is to FINISH!
I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird years ago, and her advice to write a “sh*tty first draft” no matter what it takes still sticks with me. Just get the crap down on paper, and chances are, it’s not all that crappy after all.
I’m not alone! Yay! I finished one story and now my “editor” is trying to finish editing it (aka my bestfriend who is also a writer but is too busy). I’m in the middle of a novel but I need to finish writing jobs that actually pay first. The bills before the dream.
I need this post printed out and stuck to my wall! Not only does my brain sprout forth new ideas all the time but my inbox is currently getting inundated with potential ideas. All too easy to lose focus on the task at hand!
Ahhhh. Breathe out. (Great post by the way). Yes, this happens so often to me. Facing that difficult sentence or paragraph or story, really facing it, grabbing it between your teeth and wrestling with it is damn hard. It’s like that point in meditation when you can feel your consciousness wandering and you try so hard to re-grasp it, so hard that your head hurts with the effort. That’s how I often feel when writing becomes difficult – it truly hurts my head. And that New Idea is so alluring, so sweet, full of so much potential. But you’re right, putting that to one side, facing the other tough stuff head on and getting through that impenetrable barrier, is so awfully satisfying.
This happens to me all the time in my work. I’m full of enthusiasm at the start of each consulting project but as it drags on or becomes more difficult than I thought, the allure of the next project or the proposal that I’m sure to win takes centre stage. I’m learning to give each project the attention it deserves. Hard though that sometimes is:)
Ouch! That’s me too. I even boast about my ‘first third’ problem…This new blogging passion may be another example of me starting anew to avoid the current. But I will keep going with this and that! xK
The grass is always greener syndrome of the writing world. I wish you the best of luck sticking at it. The idea you have is enough. You told me that once x
So true. I battle with this frequently, but I now have written up on my whiteboard the list of ‘must do” things that I force myself to look at when this happens. It’s so damn long that it terrifies me back to work!
Al, you have just described my life. Glad I am not alone. A-M xx
Oh Al, every blog post must stop being about me. You know that song Killing Me Softly? That’s what this blog post is. How do you know so much about me??? I’m going to look for the hidden camera.
I am definitely guilty of this. I decided only last week that no new projects are allowed to start before x, y and z are finished! Consequently my notebook is bursting with “NEW IDEAS”!
I add a new idea to the pile every day. I’m really trying to focus on one- two projects at a time lately, and just say to myself the other things will be looked at when the timeing is perfect.
Thank you Al. I needed this post. This is where I struggle. I have so many ‘ideas’ that evilly tempt me away from my current focus. I have my ‘little pink book’ of ideas that keeps expanding, yet my poor work in progress gets neglected.
So thank you. I will be pinning your post to my pinboard 🙂
Allison! It’s as if you crawled right into my head and read my mind! This is so me! It’s me, during every snap of the letters on the keyboard! Scrutinizing every single word can drive a writer totally batty! Waiting, digging, fishing, searching for the next idea, thinking, where do I go now? What happens next here? The process can be absolutely deflating.
Thanks for this, it truly caused an out loud laugh and a good radiant smile!
Love your work!!
your post came at the perfect time for me. I was wrestling w/ a new thought and trying to include it with my current project but it didn’t want to fit. I eventually set it aside. comforting to know others battle this also.
I’m big on finishing what I start. Just my nature. I’m guess i’m a linear person and I find it difficult to have my focus split in multiple directions.
Glad to know that I’m not the only one.
Oohh you caught me! The New Idea is very enticing and I’m guilty of having many projects on the go at the same time. I always get around to finishing them. But, I have scribbled notes everywhere!
very good point. I think this translates to other areas of life also, a new project, a new notebook, a new idea, a new career, sometimes I wonder if it is just a way of distracting from the task at hand. As for focusing on more than one thing at a time? This is the habit I am trying desperately to break
I resist. I love the lure of the new idea. But luckily I love the “job complete” feeling more.
I love the leaning back admiration of a job well done…
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