How to Get a New, Distracting Idea Out of Your Head (For Now)

Stop thinking about it. (Okay, try.)

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So this happened.

I wish I could say it was the first time an idea has inserted itself into my brain without permission. I’m sure it’s happened to you at least once before. You’re minding your own business when BOOM. There it is. Something else you don’t [feel like you] have time to write.

And yet it won’t go away. You can’t get it out of your head.

Every part of you is screaming, “We don’t have time for this! We have a job! We’re already working on another book! We haven’t even started that one project we’ve been putting off for two years!”

Yet the idea persists. Loudly, without ceasing.

You could just give in. Throw all your other priorities onto the floor and ignore them as you dive headfirst into this new endeavor you couldn’t possibly refuse.

Or you could do The Responsible Thing and tell it to shut up.

Except you don’t quite want to do that. Because right now, in this moment, it seems like a really, really good idea. You don’t want to completely abandon it forever before it’s even gotten the chance to become something amazing.

So how do you put it off to the side without forgetting about it completely? How do you go on with your life — business as usual — knowing there’s a Great Big Idea bouncing around in your brain, just waiting for you to give it the attention it’s begging for?

It’s simple, really. (REALLY.) You write your elevator pitch.

You know. The three-sentence micro-synopsis of your story. That thing you respond with when someone asks you what your book is about that doesn’t reveal all the super secret details you can’t wait to share.

That’s what I did this morning. Frustrated (and, let’s be honest, kind of excited), I opened up the Google Doc where I keep all my random ideas for things I may or may not work on someday and wrote a few sentences summarizing exactly what this idea was screaming at me to record.

And I’ve barely thought about it since.

I mean … not as much as I would have otherwise, anyway.

I have a million other projects I need to start/finish before I can even think about starting another book. I literally don’t have time for this right now.

But because I wrote it down, it’s very unlikely I’ll forget about it.

And if at any point in the next six months, this idea sprouts tiny baby ideas that are Essential to The New Book’s Plot, I’ll go back in and jot them down. Then I can “forget” about them again.

There’s a big difference between putting something off and putting it on hold.

If you have a good idea, save it. Be responsible — do your work and finish what you started. And then you can go play with your new eventually-to-be project.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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3 thoughts on “How to Get a New, Distracting Idea Out of Your Head (For Now)

  1. I try to write just enough to remind me of why this idea is so exciting. Most of the time it works great. Every now and then I’ll go back and look at my notes and wonder what I was thinking! lol But we have to jot down some key words so we don’t lose that exciting idea!

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