The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
It’s happened to every writer at least once throughout their tenure as a creator, paid or otherwise.
And if it hasn’t happened to you yet … it will.
You’re sitting at your desk working on a writing project, or you’re walking your dog or washing the dishes or driving your kid to school when BOOM. An idea hits you straight in the face.
And then another. And another … and another. One right after the other. A flood of new ideas that continuously spark new ideas. A rush that seems alarmingly unstoppable.
I call this “brain rush.” It’s more than inspiration — it’s a much deeper sensation. An awareness, almost, of what feels like a million storytelling possibilities all trying to get your attention at the same time.
Here’s what you need to know about all these new ideas flooding into your brain.
Not all of them will be ‘great’ ideas. Ideas, when they’re new, aren’t just exciting. They’re PERFECT. At least, that’s what they want you to think.
The truth is, not every idea that knocks on the front door of your mind will end up being a great one. It just seems like every new arrival if full of infinite possibilities because, well … that’s what we all want, deep down. An endless supply of stories we can draw from when we sit down to write something.
This rush of ideas doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a bunch of terrible ideas floating around in your head. To find good ideas, you have to sift through plenty of not-so-great ones. There’s also the fact that many not-so-great ideas, if given some care and attention, eventually transform into better ideas. Ideas combine. Things sometimes just end up working out.
But if you let yourself feel constantly overwhelmed by too many possibilities, remember that not all ideas are meant to stick. Most of the time, you forget about the ones that aren’t worth thinking about and remember many of the ones that are.
So when you find yourself with too many ideas to count, how do you know which ones to try and which ones to set aside for later review — or if you should give even one of them a shot?
You don’t have to immediately pursue all of them — or even any of them. I know this is going to seem like a wild statement to many of you, but … just because you have an idea doesn’t actually mean you have to do anything with it, now or ever.
I know, I know. There are many writers out there who willingly dive headfirst into any new idea that comes their way because they really don’t seem to come around that often.
Here’s the problem with that, though … if you say yes to every new idea, you’re never going to have the time or the resources to start and/or finish them all. And it’s not ideas that sell books or build blogs or get you published in magazines. It’s finished products.
So if you’re already working on something when a new idea comes along, it’s almost never a good idea to abandon your work in progress for something new. Admittedly, I’m very recently guilty of this — I walked away from a novel 70,000 words in to start and later finish a completely different 140,000-word draft. But I’m not proud of that. Now I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to go back to that unfinished project, and at this point, I really regret that.
BUT. We are all learning, hence this weekly series. You don’t have to actively work on twelve different story ideas at once. Some people try that and fail miserably because it’s just too much to handle. Start with one thing, if you have room for it. Good ideas don’t disappear. They wait.
You only have so much time and energy to give. We all wish we could be “that” person. You know the one. She somehow manages to do it all, every day, nonstop. She writes books, she blogs, she’s a parent, she cooks, she does yoga … you don’t know how. She just does.
We can’t all be the kind of person who does a little bit of everything, especially when writing a novel seems to drain a lot of energy and time from your day. For some people, working on a book means pretty much everything else has to be put on hold, or at the very least minimized significantly. Even then, it’s a struggle.
The truth: You don’t have time for all the ideas that are going to come to you. There’s no way to create enough space in your life for every single one. It’s OK if this isn’t an easy thing to accept — it’s taken me years to even begin to acknowledge that every idea isn’t going to transform into something I can share with other people and that it’s not my fault — it’s just the reality of mortality.
Not being able to fit in all the books and screenplays and comics and poems you want to write does not mean you’re doing something “wrong” or that you’re not “working hard enough.” It just means you’re still in the process of learning how to pick and choose what you’re going to work on right now and what you’re not.
I could go on about this for the entire length of a book … maybe I will (hmmmmm…….). But for now, just keep in mind that you’re not “lazy” or “unmotivated” for not saying yes to every single idea. It has little to do with that, in most cases. For the majority of people, time is simply precious, and not everyone chooses to — or has any other choice but to — spend all of it writing.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.