Idea Suppression: What Is It and Why Does It Happen?

I’ve found that when I focus hard one one writing project at a time, I don’t come up with new ideas for posts, articles, etc. as often.


Don’t worry. This is not a science-y, filled-with-big-words kind of post. The nice thing about being a writer, and a blogger, is that I can make things up (I AM NOT A SCIENTIST, but I will never give you facts that are not true). I can create metaphors for things that can help us understand why writing is sometimes a total pain, and how to deal with it.

It’s for the greater good, of course. This all started with the fictional personality phenomenon and sort of just keeps happening to me. I am not a psychologist. So when weird things happen with my brain, I figure, there must be an explanation. Even if I have to create one.

Have you ever walked away from a stressful situation or project, thinking you were free, only to realize there was something – or many somethings – waiting for you in the shadows?

Ideas. I’m talking about ideas. Abstractly. Again.

Because as you know, ideas have a way of appearing at the most inconvenient moments. Unless you learn to hold them back until it becomes convenient.

I’ve found that when I focus hard one one writing project at a time – which, I am learning, is a better method for me to keep track of all my thoughts – I don’t come up with new ideas for posts, articles, etc. as often as I do when my work load is a little lighter. And sometimes, the moment I finish something and file that away, HELLO! Brain rush. Yesterday I wrote down about five new ideas for articles in less than five minutes. IT JUST HAPPENS.

But why?

It’s the same word I used above: focus.

Idea suppression is, when it comes down to it, a side effect of the kind of focus many writers take years to develop and refine. The one problem with being disciplined, after all, is that it’s possible to be too disciplined. Focusing on one thing, and one thing only, makes it nearly impossible to switch between projects and come up with new ideas, which is why it can take so long to get good at it. There is a time and a place for new ideas, but when you’re on deadline and you need to not think about new things until the old things are closed out and over with, you have to say “no” to that stream of ideas begging to rush in.

I don’t consider this a bad thing, and it happens to you, you shouldn’t either. Suppressing our ideas, temporarily, for the sake of very narrow and determined focus is probably a lot easier than having to stop writing every few hours to write down a new idea. There does need to be a healthy balance, of course – periods of idea generation followed by periods of development and production. If we constantly come up with new ideas, we’ll never have time to actually work on them.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of RESTING. Which I will admit, I am not always good at. But you HAVE to rest!

A rested brain, it turns out, is a better functioning thought-generating organ.

How, you might be wondering? HOW do I keep my ideas away until I have more time to work on them?

That, my friends, is for another post.

Until then … get back to writing!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

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