If, as a writer, you’re anything like me, the last thing you “need” is another book idea. Your cup already runs over, but new ideas continue to ambush you at all hours of the day and night. They distract you when you’re driving, interrupt you in the middle of a movie, invade your dreams and even wake you up at night. Given that ideas are a writer’s nourishment, it can be easy to overeat. When that happens, your schedule gets fat, you’re overwhelmed, and it’s hard to move.
An obese person usually follows a plan to stop overeating and slim down. In the same way, you may need to put yourself on an idea diet. And if your schedule is so overcrowded you can’t budge, consider kicking your diet off by fasting from new ideas.
I can hear the objections now. Abstain from ideas? How is that possible? They keep coming to me, and they’re so enticing! Well, yes, they will and they are. But when you’re dieting do you let yourself eat that piece of cheesecake? Never mind, don’t answer that.
My point is that there’s no point in loading more food on a plate that’s already overflowing. Maybe it’s time to scrape off that tempting extra helping. So what if it tastes good if it only bloats your schedule? Don’t let the other people at your table slip additional portions to you either. While they may mean well, they can’t see how much you’re already balancing. And forget about going back for seconds. Give yourself the space and time to digest what you’ve already taken.
Once your schedule has slimmed down and mealtime comes around, don’t make the mistake of loading your plate again. You don’t want to be a yo-yo dieter. What’s needed now is:
- Be picky: When a new idea comes to me, I try to forget it. If I can’t, I know it’s probably worthy of my time.
- Exercise patience: An idea takes time to germinate, grow and ripen. If you begin writing too soon, you interfere with this process.
- Timing is everything: Learn to recognize when an idea is ready. If you pick it too soon, it won’t be ripe. Wait too long and it becomes mushy.
- Work within your limits: You only have so much time and energy. If you try to do too much, you and your writing will pay the price.
- Don’t give yourself a pass: Don’t let the pendulum swing too far the other direction. While margin is important, stretch your limits within reason.
Ideas have a place, but the wise writer teaches them some manners.
What are some of the ways new ideas ambush you?
Image by Hamad Al-Mohannna