“I’ve got too many ideas!” Every writer says this sometimes. It’s a good difficulty to have. Unfortunately however, it makes it hard to focus your writing.
To focus your writing, manage your ideas
You know you should be writing a current project, but you’ve just had a wonderful idea. You’re writing a novel, let’s say, when an idea for another novel pops into your mind.
Suddenly your current project looks shop-worn. Your bright shiny new idea is much better. So you start writing a new novel. After all, this new idea is brilliant.
Not too many weeks later, you get an even more brilliant idea. Again, you put your current novel aside, and begin yet another novel.
“I can’t get started. I’ve got too many ideas…”
The too many ideas problem may strike when you’ve just finished a project. You procrastinate. You’ve got a long list of brilliant ideas. There’s this one, and that one… Since you can’t choose, you don’t.
Eventually, all professional writers learn how to manage their ideas, and you can too. Let’s look at how you can deal with the distractions.
1. Focus your writing: recognize distractions for what they are
Writers get ideas constantly. When all is well with their writing, they make a note of the idea, then they get back to work, no matter how tempting the idea may be.
They realize that the idea’s a distraction.
To avoid distractions, you need a plan for dealing with ideas which aren’t relevant to your current projects. Make this your mantra: when I begin a project, I complete it, no matter what.
An idea is just an idea. An inclination to pursue a fresh idea means you’re unsettled. It’s resistance to the project on which you’re working when the distraction strikes.
First, add your idea to your Ideas Notebook (see below.)
Then sit back and think about your current project. You’re distracted for a reason.
Grab a pen and paper, and write: “I’m distracted. The reason is….” Write for five minutes, EVEN IF you’re convinced you’re writing nonsense. When we procrastinate and leap onto a distraction, it’s to avoid discomfort.
Whether you identify the reason for your discomfort or not doesn’t matter. Do the exercise, then get back to your project. You’ll find that you’ve unblocked your difficulty, just by pausing a moment, and writing your thoughts.
2. Congratulate yourself on your ideas, and keep a notebook for them
Ideas are wonderful. They can be pure gold, either immediately, or later. I keep an Ideas Notebook in Evernote, as well as in a couple of hardcover bullet journals.
With Evernote, I can capture an idea wherever I am. The bullet journals help me to explore the ideas immediately, or more thoroughly later.
Decide where you’ll store your ideas. It’s essential that you store them, otherwise you’ll be distracted constantly.
When you’ve created an Ideas Notebook, schedule time to review your ideas.
3. Review your ideas once a week or once a month
When you review your ideas, remember your goals:
Create a project for each goal, or several projects, then set deadlines for each one. Try setting milestone goals. These are way-stations to achieving your big goals: set deadlines for these milestone goals — 30 and 90 day deadlines work well.
You need goals for each year, month, and week. Each week, schedule tasks which will help you to achieve your goals.
When a brilliant idea strikes you, pop it into your Ideas Notebook. When it’s time to review your ideas, you can decide whether you’ll turn the idea into a project. If you do, schedule the project.
Ideas are wonderful, but they’re distractions too
You have two hands and 24 hours in each day.
A wonderful idea will be wonderful next month, or six months from now, when you’ve scheduled to work on it.
In the meantime, focus your writing on your current projects. And have fun. 🙂
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