I enjoyed a spur of the moment road trip on Saturday with my dear friend, Linda. We traveled west towards the Rocky Mountains and a lesser popular highway (some unpaved). As writers we notice everything – landscapes, flora and fauna and glimpses of everyday life as we pass by (or in our case stop!) It had been several weeks since we traveled together in that direction and we saw astounding differences in the places visited. This was due to the amount of rain the area has experienced – dry dusty tracks were now mud filled, dried up ponds and stream beds now torrents of water and a beaver lodge, which had been high and dry was now partly submerged. It shows that nothing stays the same – observation is key to a writer.
Part of our discussions during our 11 hour trip was narratives we are working on and the many put aside projects, snippets of ideas and future novels still to be realized. I remembered that some time ago a writer friend had stated that “I’m not sure I have anything to write at the moment. I cannot comprehend this. I have a folder of ‘writing pieces’ on my laptop – several hundred in fact – all of which have not seen the light of day for some time. I have come up with an idea for these short stories – but that will be a project once I have edited, revised and completed the four novels I am working on this year! (Yes I know I am a lunatic.)
If you have a similar problem to mine and suffer with ‘too much inspiration’ then maybe these strategies might help.
a) Leave the chaos of your writing space with pen and paper or recording device and go for a walk. Once you are in a new environment the most exciting and prominent idea(s) will stay with you. Write or record them and let your imagination flourish with them for a while.
b) Restrict your time on musing about new ideas by setting yourself a time limit. Even a ten minute burst of inspirational writing will ensure you get the idea down but not ‘waste’ too much time on it. Once it is written put it to one side and continue with your current project, safe in the knowledge the idea has been dealt with.
c) Take some time to really dissect the new idea. Can you envisage the plot arc, the ending, the characters? If the majority of the narrative reveals itself to you, then mark it down as your next project. However, if the idea is vague, do not pursue it – just jot down the outline and file it.
d) Utilize your passion when defining whether an idea is worth reflection. If it excites you or is on a subject you feel passionate about then it should be considered in depth.
e) Get yourself an idea board. Organize each idea into genre or categories and when a new plot, character or scene comes to you place it with the other components of that particular story.
f) Bounce your ideas off a few trusted friends or members of your writing group.
It is thought a ‘problem’ to have too many ideas – they densely populate our minds. Crowding out each other and jostling for attention. It can be frustrating when we are embroiled in a current project. We hastily jot down the details of the new idea, too frightened to leave it to chance that we will remember it later. This removes our mind set from progressing with our existing work, if only for a short time. These ‘breaks’ can either be a good thing – returning refreshed and with renewed vigor or a bad thing – lured into the new project and dissatisfied with our current work in progress.
How do you handle the sparse and dense periods of your writing life?
What obscure stimulus has sparked an idea for you?
How do you approach new ideas? Frantic notes? Plot arc? Character descriptions?
Have you experienced a story unwilling to stay quiet?
“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.”