07 March 2014

Writer's block, part 2 - Too many ideas

As I went to start writing this post, I hesitated. Should I write about what I've been experiencing today, this general sense of writing as an obligation, as a "have-to" which rates the same on the Annoyance-O-Meter as a fly buzzing around my sushi? (F--- off, fly! *SWAT!*)

Or maybe I should tackle one of the ideas I'd already jotted down - the need for control or self-judgement or repressing thoughts & feelings or etc., etc.

If I chose to work on the first idea because it was most up for me, and I continued to do that every week, when would I get to these other ideas? But if I tried to work on one of these other ideas when I wasn't really feeling it in the moment, would the post be as good as it can be?

I hesitated. I dithered. I became paralyzed by indecision.

And thus this post was born: Writer's Block as a Result of Too Many Ideas. Have you ever experienced it?

Maybe you have a story you've already started and have told yourself you're supposed to be working on, but then another idea presents itself to you and you feel compelled to work on Idea #2. Idea #2 is sexy and new, and it's burning up your brain like it's on fire. Images and lines of dialogue are rushing through your mind faster than your fingers can keep up, and you're terrified that if you don't get as much as possible down RIGHT NOW you'll lose it forever.

And you are certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Idea #2 is going to be the one that makes you famous. Never mind that you had that exact same feeling about Idea #1 last week. That you have, in fact, had that feeling about a great many story ideas. This time it's the real deal. The moneymaker.

"But what about me?" says Idea #1. "I'm still a good idea, and I was here first!"

"But, but...shiny! New!" you say. And then the magic word: "Inspired!"

"Show some discipline for once in your life, why don't you. If you keep letting yourself get distracted by new and shiny, you'll never finish a damn thing," says Idea #1, making a grumpy face and crossing its arms over its chest.

"Hey, man!" says Idea #2 to Idea #1. "I'm a great idea, and I'm burnin' up! Just because you were here first doesn't mean you get to hog all the attention."

"Psst! Hey!" whispers a new voice. "Let me tell you a story..." Idea #3 has just arrived.

You run in circles around your coffee table, tearing your hair out and gnashing your teeth, blood running out of your ears and eye sockets. If not literally, then at least metaphorically. That's how it feels, anyway.

And then you think back on all those notes you've jotted down over the years that never went anywhere, all those stories ideas you never saw through, all the blog posts begun and abandoned, and you wonder whether your choices about what to write vs. what not to write have led to your relative obscurity in the literary circles. Perhaps the story you were meant to tell, the one that would get you a book deal and put you on the charts at last, is one of the ones you jotted down but never came back to. You start going back through your old notebooks to check.

But do you notice what you are not doing? That's right: writing.

Your time is limited, my friend! You only have thirty minutes or an hour - or, if you're really lucky, two hours - today to write. And Idea #2, sulky because you're not paying it the proper attention, is beginning to fade. Wake up! Do something, before it's too late!!!

But you can't. You're paralyzed by indecision. You wish there were more of you so you could split up and each take one idea, thereby simultaneously giving all ideas the attention they merit. Sadly, this is impossible. But it does give you yet another idea for a story. Oh, the agony!

So I have some strategies that have worked for me, but what do you do when faced with this situation, fellow writers? I would love to know.


  1. Oh dear, this is all too familiar! I'm afraid that I haven't got any advice - I'm still learning how to remain 'zen' and believe that whatever I'm working on in the moment is the right thing :)

    1. That sounds to me like your strategy right there, Camilla - to stick with one thing at a time! Do you jot down other ideas to come back to later, or do you let them go?