Guys. I have a new idea.
I know, I know. You’re all pounding your fists and screaming “MEG STOP YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ANOTHER THING WE ARE CONCERNED.”
First of all calm down. I said I had an IDEA, not that I was starting another project.
But I’m considering starting another project. So there’s that.
Here’s the thing: We can’t stop new ideas from showing up on our doorsteps unannounced. Nor do we want to. Ideas are a lot like friends. When you’re actively trying to get one to talk to you, no one answers your texts, but the second you snuggle into your introvert hole with a drink and a good book, everyone and their cousin suddenly wants to hang out. Cool cool cool.
But there is this thing I like to call “idea management.” It’s like time management, but instead of figuring out how to make the best use of your time, it’s a process to help you decide which of your ideas are worth pursuing when, and which ones need to be put on hold or kept in storage.
I’m not going to call myself an expert in this area because, well, I’m not. I’m over here almost shaking because of how excited I am to [not] start this project even though I know that doing so would be a very, very bad idea. Why? Because I’m doing too many things. You already know this. Such is the life of a writer who wants to share more of her thoughts with the universe.
But there’s at least one thing I do know for absolute certain: I am not the only one who wants to cuddle every single idea close to my heart and love and squeeze it until it becomes a finished product.
Of course it’s easy to get distracted by every new idea that comes your way. So shiny! But the key to not letting everything else in your life fall apart for the sake of this one new thing is to take a deep breath and hold it … keep holding … keep holding …
Yeah I have no idea how to do this sorry DID I SAY YOU COULD BREATHE?!
In all seriousness, “project hopping” is a real problem among writers. Project hoppers are the creators who start working on one thing and then abandon it as soon as they encounter a “better” idea. And when that better idea stops being shiny and interesting, guess what? It gets left behind too.
There are some people who just have the ability to focus on one thing and only that thing until it’s done before they move on to something else. There are also people who seem to lose interest in their works in progress within days of starting them. And then you have your in-betweeners. Sometimes they can focus totally on something from start to finish. And other times, they just can’t get anything to stick.
And while there is nothing wrong with exploring your creative limits, expanding your horizons and giving new ideas a chance — please, do these things as much as possible — I’ve personally found it’s mentally unhealthy to never finish what you start.
The adrenaline rush that comes with attaching yourself to a new idea is amazing and, yes, even addicting. You’re excited for something new! You’re setting a new goal! You are so proud of all you’re going to get done! But that sense of accomplishment will never come. You will just keep hitting the reset button over and over, and the cycle keeps repeating because you never follow through on your goal to finish writing your story or your blog post or your poem or whatever it is you’ve previously set out to accomplish.
Sometimes when a new idea comes along, you have to say, “Yes. But not yet.”
I was very sad when I came to the realization that the idea I’d gotten so excited about wasn’t currently feasible. I quite literally did not have the time to make it happen. I felt anxious. I started trying to figure out if there were other things I could give up to make this new project work. Eventually I had to accept that now was not the right time. No doesn’t always mean never. Sometimes — in this context only — it means yes, but not this moment.
If you truly care about an idea — and if it’s an idea worth pursuing — waiting on it will not cause you to lose it.
I am doing my best to talk myself off this treadmill. I’m not making any promises, but I might be able to convince myself to hold off on starting a new project until my current work in progress — the first draft of it, anyway — has been completed.
The last thing I want to do is produce something that isn’t good because I don’t have the time or energy left over from everything else I’m working on to make it good.
But at the same time … does it matter?
What if I’m just excited about a new side project that’s just for me and I give myself permission to work on it to the best of my ability, whenever I’m motivated to do so, without worrying about every piece of the entire thing being as close to perfect as I can make it?
Just because you can’t, or don’t want to, start something right now doesn’t mean you never will. Give yourself a start date (a deadline for starting something new instead of a deadline for when something has to be finished) and make sure you do whatever needs to be done before that date so you can hopefully give your new project the time and energy it deserves.
And don’t worry about missing your opportunity to land something just because you’re afraid someone else will get to it first. It’s a possibility, fine, but it’s really not a worry you need to be wasting valuable energy on.
Focus instead on deciding if you’re ready to put in whatever effort is necessary to make it as good as you want it to be. If you can’t do that right now, don’t. There’s a big difference between procrastinating and intentionally holding off on doing something.
There are moments when we have to choose what’s best for us and our beloved ideas, even if that choice makes us sad.
Don’t worry, beautiful, worthwhile idea. I will not forget you. When the circumstances completely out of my control give me some room to breathe — whenever that may be — I will come back for you. I promise. I PROMISE.
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.