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Too many ideas

28. November 2006

You hear a lot of talk about writer’s block, but there is another way writers can boycott themselves.

I think I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating.
I’m talking about writer’s blockage.

Writer’s blockage is when you have so many ideas clamoring for attention that you end up not pursuing any of them. There’s that brilliant short story. The poem. Those song lyrics. A painting. The two novels and one novella you’ve started.
Your writing folder is full of first chapters, title ideas and rough character sketches.
You are spending a lot of time writing.
You’ve started dozens of projects but finished none.

I hate to break this to you, but unless you finish something, it’s all pretty useless. There’s only so much you can learn from writing scenes and chapters that don’t lead anywhere.

The first writer’s group I was in had one long-time member who brought a new first chapter each time we met. It had turned intoa bit of a running joke witht he group. I don’t think she ever even made it to the partial stage (first three chapters). Whenever she hit a slump, she would jump over to the next shiny idea.
A friend of mine is a very keen writer, but she tends to flit around a lot. She doesn’t have one strong direction that she wants to go in. She writes short stories, song lyrics, movie scripts and novels. But whenever one of them gets slow, she finds something else to occupy her (very sparse) time. The result? Lots of unfinished business.

Now, I’m the first to admit that seeing something through to the end can be boring as hell. It’s one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as part of the writing craft. but the problem is, no one wants to see only your first few chapters, or a few disconnected scenes.

People want a finished product.
If you’re serious about being a writer, you have to buckle down and write through the slump. Allow yourself to write pages of crap, if that helps you. You can always go back and edit, after all. but you can’t fix what’s not there.

If the idea of losing any precious line is paralyzing you, jot down that great idea for the other project quickly, then return to the main one.

It’s a sad fact that you more likely than not won’t have time to deal with every single idea you ever have. maybe some of them will be combined eventually, but not every stroke of brilliance is great enough to make it. Pick one idea that you love. Stick with it.
Finish the work. Even if it’s crap, you’ve learned a lot of useful skills that will serve you well on your next endeavour.

It gets easier. not much, but it does. Have a professional attitude. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have any fun.

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