When you get a new idea, your first instinct is probably to jump on it right away. You get into the mindset that if you don’t do it NOW, you never will. But this just isn’t true. At least, not the way you’re imagining it.
The bright spark that comes along with every brand-new idea is irresistible. We’re pulled into these things without realizing it’s happening until we’re mostly submerged. But sometimes, this isn’t a good thing. Not even a little bit.
Rushing into a new project too quickly is like ordering something off a menu without reading the description and eating half of what’s on your plate before actually tasting it. How do you know you’re going to like everything that’s there in front of you? Are there substitutions you can make to improve your experience? What if you take the first bite and realize you’ve made a terrible mistake?
You might end up either sending your meal back — unnecessarily wasting an entire plate of food to get something you think is better — or just not eating anything at all.
The bottom line: you lose. There’s a chance you could end up liking it. But there’s a lot you could have done to prepare yourself, and increase the chance that the outcome could work out in your favor.
This same scenario happens in writing all the time. Except instead of a restaurant dish you’ve never tried before, it’s a new book; a new blog; a new business, even. Before you’ve even had a chance to think through what you’re about to do, you sprint toward your new muse so fast you trip down a flight of stairs, break your nose, and never actually make the writing progress you intended to make in the first place.
We rush into these things for a number of reasons. The most common one I hear is, “Well, someone’s going to take my idea if I don’t jump on it now.” Fair. Also: the elation of inspiration, like falling in love, drives us to do real dumb stuff. It’s just how humans are programmed, I guess.
Speaking to our not all that irrational “someone’s going to steal my idea” phobia specifically, honestly, it does happen from time to time. (Once, a movie came out three years after I wrote the book — except my book was never published. Still mad about it.) But in some cases, you can still claim the “rights” by buying the domain name, creating the YouTube channel, etc.
Going in too fast makes it more likely you’re not going to be able to stick with it. It’s like running a marathon — if you sprint through the first five miles, you’re not going to have enough stored energy left over to finish the next 21. You have to start slow and increase your pace gradually. Writing works the same way. Starting small and working your way up is the best safeguard against burnout — and ultimately, not being able to succeed to the degree you’d originally hoped.
Start. But take your time. Baby steps. You’ll get where you want to be eventually, but you don’t want to expend all your energy and resources until you know it’s exactly what and how you want it to begin.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.