Have you ever been so full of ideas, you had to pare things down to just one or two to write about? Or, have you ever been, oh, I don’t know, say, in the shower, in bed, anywhere where getting ahold of a writing utensil or laptop or iPhone or anything is impossible. Not such a bad thing. I mean, as a writer, too many ideas is great! We have a plethora of things to cherry pick like professional connoisseurs with the best of the best laid before us.
But no, it isn’t so. I present to you the idea *pun intended* that it is not only possible to have too many ideas, but dangerous. How is that, you may ask. First, let me say, I could hear the groans from far and wide, from across the globe, as writers everywhere remembered all the times the ideas came…and left, as surely as the water sloughed off them and down the drain, impossible to recall, or to recall in their glory. Pieces of the idea may hang around, like water dripping from hair to annoy instead of clean, refresh, invigorate as originally intended. We will address that aspect later. The point here is, did you not become stuck trying to remember that fantastic idea you had, the one that would strike blind the gate keepers of the big six, leave the author of fifty shades of what crying in her beer as you took over the number one spots ever? Did you not despair, weeping on the shoulders of your writing companions at the cool-of-cool idea that is lost, perhaps even hold a memorial–oh wait, you can’t because…well, because you can’t remember!
So now, instead of slaving away, putting forth words, words toward your future, whether a blog, the next paragraph, the outline of your next book (if you’re a plotter…) or brainstorming, you have writer’s block, and you’re lamenting your loss. The mourning takes hours, or days if it really was the stellar idea bright enough to start its own solar system. Okay, perhaps we’re getting a bit melodramatic, but are we not writers? Do we not write? Do we not cry when the writings don’t happen? Do we not bleed if we have to cut our word babies when editors spring forth their words of wisdom and that red pen? Fine, it’s a track changes button and typed words, but it can be red…
Then there’s the other side of the scenario. (I can see all the writers now, slowly pulling the blanket over their head, staring at the screen between the fingers as their avid imagination springs forth with where I must be going.) You have all these ideas, and they do not, I repeat, not, leave you alone. You’re another person by day. Mother, retail, or maybe, you get to write all day. Whatever it is you do, this bouquet of ideas keeps wafting their scents across the way, their sweet, sometimes spicy aroma tantalizing your senses, turning your mind like the headiest of French perfume.
Your eyes glaze over, your breathing quickens, your heart beats faster, fanning the flames of lust cooking those bouquets until their scents permeates every corner of what you’re doing. Yep, it happened. You fell in love with another idea. As it cooks, percolates, it seduces your writer’s soul, the creative bit that wants to keep building and building, and you neglect the foundations. You neglect to lay out the rebar, to choose the flooring, plan the stairs, make sure all rabbets are in place. These ideas, while enticing, get in the way of editing, marketing, contract reading…all those pesky non-creative parts of being a writer. The parts of the love life that is more than feeling good, of flash pheromones and surface looks, the real work, the commitment to follow through, choosing cover art, filling out forms. The finding a marketer or learning how to do it yourself, even if you are with the big six.
The danger is the seduction of the new shiny without finishing up with the tarnished armor you put on your story in the beginning and polishing it up ready for jousting with its peers on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, without adding the herbs and spices to the full meal. Instead, it is left to languish in the large fields of garbage as it wallows in comma splices and run ons, woefully full of passive voice and exposition. The new shiny starts out fresh, clean, perfect, but soon, it too will lose that heroic bearing, that fresh scent of a five course meal, and become the next broken armor.
Dangerous. Too many ideas are dangerous and become mixed metaphors of life–if you even remember them. If an idea is plaguing you when others are up on the chopping block of edits, then give it a little attention, write down the gist you need to remember it later, and save it in a special folder. Then leave them alone. Develop tonight’s meal so you can be the hero of the kitchen like a proper chef. When it is finished, then prepare for tomorrow’s meal as we all want to continue to eat, build your next spaceship, practice your sword moves in preparation for the next joust…and any other metaphor that fits the genre you’re writing in!
As for the ideas in an impossible-to-write-down-situation, I suggest you marry an inventor who creates the writer’s shower recorder so you can speak a magic word, and it will record your very idea with the I’m-in-bed-and-almost-asleep mind reader option. Or if you can’t marry the inventor, sell your soul?
In the meantime, may that sweet spot of plenty of ideas at appropriate times follow you all the days of your career.