The FOMO (is that still a thing? Ugh…) of an idea popping up while you’re actively working on a different project is the bashful existential crisis I deal with almost daily. It’s such a great feeling when something new pops into your brain and gets your heart fluttering, but it’s also incredibly disheartening when you have to tell that idea, “No.”
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert goes into great detail on ideas to the extent that they are their own entities with their own agency. This outlook did, eventually, end up helping me come to terms with how to address all the ideas that tap my shoulder. Instead of “No.”, it’s become “No, not now… I’d be happy to give you the time when I can, but I’m also sure there are tons of other creatives that would love to have you, too.”
It’s corny, but it does help me, mentally, be able to focus on whatever it is I keep open on my desktop to see every time I sit down in front of my computer (another productivity hack for those of us who use our PCs for not just work, but also recreation — PC Master Race — — is *THAT* still a thing?).
I like to think of myself as a multi-dimensional writer. For most of my writing life, I’ve created weird little babies that push the boundaries of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Experimental, for sure. But after five years, I needed a break and embarked on something completely different — a YA fantasy novel! I try to sit down for an hour each day and work on my shitty first draft. It’s been working, mostly, so far. But, still, every day another writing blip comes to me and asks for my attention and I simply can’t give it that.
Writing is a long game. Especially a novel. Even the first draft, as terrible and mutated and pile-of-steaming-shite it is… The thing that keeps me going is knowing that, at the end of my word count goal, I’ll be able to put “The End” and likely kill my printer trying to print it out and hold my disgusting creation in my hands and say, “I did that. I finished that.”
I don’t think it matters the length of a project. It could be a three sentence micro piece or a 200,000 word epic. The way to stave off the burden of other ideas tempting you is to say, “Not now… But thank you. Maybe when I’m finished with this.” and go back to your current project. To be fair, Jacq (the better half of this press, my writing wife, and (in)sanity checker), works with her ideas completely differently than I do because she lives a different lifestyle. This is just one way that works for me. Maybe it will for you, too.
I also champion putting all those attention-seeking ideas on index cards and flinging them in a basket near your desk. It gives them a place to live and, when you’re finished, you can always go back to them to decide what to work on next.
What are you most excited for finishing right now? What are you working on?