Every writer has been there: you’re working on a story, maybe you’ve come to a bit of a plateau and you’re stuck. But what’s that in the distance? A new idea? It’s so shiny! You have to work on that one right away before it flies away never to be seen again. You start working on the new idea, forgetting about the old one, and inevitably hit a plateau again. But wait, what’s that in the distance again? Another new idea? …Well, you get the picture.
Having too many ideas might seem the complete opposite of a problem, but it can be just as much a hindrance to your writing as writer’s block. It’s frustrating to try to focus on just one when you have loads more shiny ideas floating around in your head.
I’ve got two ideas that I want to work on at the moment and I am struggling to pick which one I like the most. So instead of actually sitting down and choosing one, I’m writing this post on how to choose an idea to work on, because I like to be somewhat productive in my procrastination.
So here are my tips for when you’ve got too many ideas to work on and can’t choose one.
Go For a Walk
This is a pretty universal tip when it comes to a lot of writing problems. Writer’s block? Go for a walk. Character stuck in a rut? Go for a walk. And now, too many ideas? Go for a walk.
The reason this tip helps so many problems is that most writing problems can be helped with a clear head, and that’s exactly what going for a walk will do. Getting away from your workspace and going outside for a walk declutters and de-stresses your mind, leaving you with a clear mind and making it easier to focus on what you really want to work on.
Give Yourself a Deadline
Maybe it’s just me, but I know I get some of my best work done when I have a deadline looming. It makes me more focused and sure of what I’m writing when I know I need to be done by a certain time.
Giving yourself a deadline to write something means your mind will be more focused on what you actually want to do, hopefully helping you choose the idea you really want to work on.
Talk to Someone
Talking to other people about the ideas you have, whether other writers in a writing group or a friend whose opinion you trust, helps in a number of ways.
Firstly, you get other opinions on the potential of each idea. They can tell you if they think your ideas have legs, if they think people would read them, and even help you flesh out ideas that they think have potential.
Secondly, saying something out loud always gives it more clarity. What’s that saying? ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. The simple act of speaking your ideas out loud could help you see for yourself if they have any chance of working or if they’re a flop.
Write Everything Down
When you’ve got a few different ideas it’s always good to take each one and write down everything you know about it so far. Use different coloured post-it notes or different notebooks for each idea and just write down everything you’ve come up with so far.
This is a great way of seeing which ideas are actually ready to start working on and which ones still need a bit of time to percolate in the back of your mind. You might realise that an idea you’ve been really excited about is actually just a really good character with no plot or vice versa. Leave these ones in favour of an idea that’s a bit more fleshed out.
Writing everything down also makes sure that you don’t forget something while working on something else. It’s important to keep note of every idea even if it’s not something you can work with yet. You never know when you might be able to use that character or setting in the future.
Write the One That Most Closely Resembles a Story
This is connected to the last point of writing everything down and seeing which ideas are ready to be worked on, but it’s for that annoying time when a bright sparkling new idea comes along when you’re smack bang in the middle of writing something else.
Brand new ideas are rarely ready to be written as soon as they come into your head. Most if the time they’re just fragments or scenes from a story. You’re better off letting it brew in the back of your mind while you work on the story you’re already writing (just make sure you write it down or else you will forget it).
Sticking with the story you’re already working on means that by the time you’re done with it the brand new idea will have formed a bit more in your mind and more resemble a story itself.
Remember to be a Reader
Never forget that for a story to be good it needs to entertain and excite a reader. Put yourself in a reader’s shoes and figure out which idea has the most potential to entertain and excite.
If your idea doesn’t excite you, then it won’t excite a reader, and that means it’s not worth working on (yet – again, let it percolate in your mind while you work on something else, it might work out.)
The most important thing to remember when trying to choose which idea to work on is not to panic. Don’t get too excited about a new idea just because another one isn’t working how you wanted it to. Don’t throw away an old idea just because a new one has come along, you’ll more than likely end up in the same situation again.
Right, well I suppose that’s my procrastination done. I’m off for a walk to clear my head and hope I can choose which if my own ideas to work on. Wish me luck!