Light Bulbs A’Plenty

Ideas, ideas everywhere, and too many thinks to think…

Writers are, by nature, creative people, and as such look at things a little differently. Take the everyday and drama it up a bit – add sequins, monsters in argyle, and gears and levers, and you have an inkling of what goes on in the head of a writer. It’s magical, and it’s exhilarating, and, at times, it’s exhausting.

One of the hardest things (and, arguably, the best things) about being a writer is the constant having of ideas – ideas for characters, ideas for plots, ideas for settings – and not knowing what to do with them.

Though there are *wizard* writers who have the ability to work on more than one project at a time, I am not one of them. (Seriously, it’s black magic, and I don’t have the right type of wand.) It takes all of my discipline and concentration (and so, so much coffee) to focus and finish a single project, there’s no way I can carry on multiples at the same time. So what’s a one-project-at-a-time-minded writer to do with all of her ideas that come at the most inopportune times, like while she’s in the middle of a current project?

Well, I certainly don’t want to forget the idea. I mean, I’ll need a starting point for whatever comes next, right? But neither do I want it to derail me from what I’m immediately trying to accomplish. (Writing writing writing oh, look, a shiny new adventure!) < This is not a good thing.

So, this is what works for me. And maybe it can work for you, too.

I have an “Ideas” notebook. This is – wait for it – a notebook filled with ideas. (Genius, I know.  Hold your applause, though, until the end.) I allow each idea one page. One. No more. I write *whatever* the idea is (plot, setting, character, object, etc.) at the top, and then I give myself the space of one page to write around that idea. The text on the page can be thoughts, questions, observations, subsequent ideas, whatever – it doesn’t matter. But when I get to the end of the page, that’s it. Then I have to put it down and go back to what I was working on. One page gives me enough space to develop the idea a little bit, and to give it some context, but not enough to really delve in and become immersed.

Why am I so mean to myself, you ask. Well, it’s because I know myself. And I know that I ❤ new projects, but I don’t ❤ abandoning WIPs. And if I allow myself to focus on a new idea before I finish the one I’m working on, chances are better than even money I won’t finish either one. So, in the interest of my precious story children, one page is all my new ideas get. Until it’s their turn to be the focus project.

Ideas are a writer’s blessing and curse. How do you handle those ideas that pop into your head and threaten to take over your writerly life?