When we write every day ideas flock to us like mosquitos. Unlike mosquitos though, we love collecting ideas. However, if we switch gears to repeatedly chase the newest, brightest idea we canlose focus. If we lose focus, our writing slows, then the ideas slow and then we’re pulling out a ladder to get over that darn wall in our way.
(Ideas still on vacation? Check out Laura Highcove’s Five Ways to Boost Your Creativity or Gabi’s Brainstorm the DIY MFA Way.)
Once ideas are flying fast and furious, you have to train your brain to capture them while not jumping track mid-project. Here are five ways to help tame the idea influx.
What is your current goal? Do you have an article due in three days? Do you have a deadline that is racing up fast? If so, stay the course and get that project done.
If you don’t have a mandatory deadline for someone else, what is your main goal right now? A novel you’re working to complete? A series of posts for your blog so it remains consistent? The writing goals you make with yourself should be just as important as the deadlines you have with editors. Make sure you stay the course and meet those goals.
2) Catch and Continue
This is my favorite part of the process. When ideas come to you, write them down, record them on the voice recorder of your phone, or repeat them in your head until you get to pen and paper.
If you’re working on a current project and ideas are popping up, jot them in a notebook or on a separate document and immediately go back to the task at hand. Don’t flesh it out, don’t debate whether it’s a feasible idea or not, just capture the gist of it and move on. Once you begin doing this, your brain will adapt to the new process and staying on track will become easier and easier.
A couple times a month scan through your ideas. Yes, only a couple times a month. You want the ideas to sit away from you long enough that you can be impartial about whether or not it’s an idea worth investing your time in. Most of the time, when we get ideas, they seem perfect. Given a few weeks you can better decipher which ideas have merit and which don’t. Mark them ‘Keep’ or ‘Maybe’ and delete or scratch out the ones that don’t hold your interest.
4) Collect Information
This next step will help you realize what idea is begging to be dealt with first. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I snagged it from Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) after listening to an online interview earlier this year.
Create a document for each idea that you’ve labeled “keep.” Name it something simple: Notes – Swimming Cats. Then keep it minimized at the bottom of your screen as you work on your current project. When an idea comes to you in regards to that topic, pull up the document, make a note of it (how do you train them? Are they hairless? Do they shake like dogs?) and – just like in phase two–get right back into your current project.
5) Review and Implement
Once you complete your current project go through the files that you’ve been collecting notes on. Whichever one has the most notes is usually a big indicator of which project you should start next. It’s obviously the one that has peaked your curiosity the most, which means you’ll be ready to tackle it straight away.
As you begin this new project new ideas will jump at you, keep collecting and moving on.
What are your favorite methods for taming idea influx? Let me know in the comments, or on social media, using the hashtag, #5onFri!
Diane DeMasi lives in the state of Washington where the overcast skies and her over-active imagination fuel dark stories. She shares creepy pictures, creepy stories, heartfelt stories, and funny moments on her Facebook page. Her work has most recently appeared in PIF Magazine.