All successful novelists share one thing in common: they finished something. Of all the distractions in a writer’s path – movies, books, relationships, the day job – I’m finding the grand daddy of them all is… other ideas. The whole time I’ve been working on Progeny, I have had my train of thought broken by other ideas and I stop writing the main one and make notes on the other things. It’s a grass-is-greener thing because the other ideas always feel more interesting than the one I’m on, and I keep wondering if Progeny is the right one for the first book attempt. Yeah, it’s a dry run, but I want it to be good, too. Good or terrible, it’ll never get done if I’m splitting time with other ideas.
The solution I came up with is probably not original, but I was kind of pumped that I came up with it myself. In order to write well, I’ve always thought that reading is important. It gives me some perspective and I start thinking in book prose instead of screenplay formatting or picture editing. So I always schedule in some reading time during the week. If I can sit down for a few hours twice a week and read instead of write, I feel much better when I get back to the writing. The challenge is that while I’m reading, I get excited about writing and want to put the book down and pick up the journal. But after some practice, I conditioned myself enough that I can read a physical book or kindle version without constantly feeling the urge to switch to something else. Granted, it takes a few minutes to settle in, but then I’m good for a couple hours. Most people read at night, but I do better in the morning for some reason. I get up pretty early and read for an hour or so before getting ready for work. Kind of gets my brain going and I’m less likely to jump between tasks when I’m just waking up.
Anyway, I was thinking about how to deal with the “other idea” problem and came up with something has done wonders for me. “Not Main Idea Day.” It needs a catchier title, but for internal purposes, it works. Basically, I take one day a week where I sit down and crank out raw treatments on the ideas I have in the file or new ones that pop up as I’m reading or writing. Or I might re-work one that I’ve had around and needs adjustments. I’ve done this two weeks in a row, now and it really really helps. It clears out that crusty idea build-up and takes the pressure off. One great side-effect is that it wipes out the grass-is-greener thing. When I take time to write out that “great idea” that has been nagging at me while working on the main project, I often find out that the idea isn’t that great or as fully formed as I thought when it was just a distraction. And sometimes I get that brand new, exciting idea out on paper, and I realize when it’s all done that it’s just 12 Monkeys again.
Side note: I keep coming back to this one concept where a guy is either crazy or a traveler of the planes of reality, and it always ends up being 12 Monkeys/La Jete when I write it out. There’s a good idea with an original spin in there somewhere, but I haven’t found it, yet.
Like I said, I’m sure there’s a thousand how-to-write books that already suggest something like Idea Day, but since it’s new to me and I thought it up all by myself, I’m recommending it to anyone who is distracted by all the other ideas they want to put down on paper.
Take a day off your main idea once a week and start some new ones. Or work on old ones. Then get back to the main project and finish that thing!