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Too Many Ideas Syndrome
As a writer, I am bogged down with ideas. And I’m not just talking about story ideas either. Though, I do believe the fact that I am a creative storyteller automatically makes me a prime candidate for this particular kind of syndrome that I like to call the “Idea Syndrome.” Tell me if this applies to you in any way at all:
You have an idea for a story. It’s amazing and you can’t wait to write it but you want to at least put down some notes so you don’t forget it, just in case. As you do this you ask yourself, “Is this idea too big for just one book? Am I dealing with a trilogy, perhaps?” Then you start having visions of the cover. You itch to design it. How will that look like as an ebook? Do you design it yourself or hire someone? The cost. What about marketing? The title? What’s the title? Ohh, I should do a book box. I’ve seen so many other authors do this. How can I get that going? Candles! Scents! Bookmarks! All cool things that can and should be in my book box. What about an ARC or street team? No, wait, beta readers. I need to get some of those. The webpage! I should create a page for it on my website. What information should I put? What do other authors do? Have I tweeted about this yet? I should probably do that.
I could go on and on but I think you get what I’m saying. Now, mind you, all of this is happening in my mind all at once and I haven’t even started writing the damn book yet! Let alone start the outline or flesh out the characters or done any sort of research that I know I always do before I start writing anyhow. It’s a problem! Please tell me I’m not the only one who suffers like this.
But as I said, this is not just left to writing ideas. This includes the other ideas I get for possible side-hustles that I really want to do but find I have little time to do it because I have to prioritize but how do you prioritize when all of your ideas seem so good?!
I want to start a YouTube channel. Point of fact, I want to start TWO YouTube Channels. I also want to prerecord videos and teach myself how to edit them and then upload them rather than just doing Live Streams as I have been. I want to start a digital planner company specifically for writers that go beyond just digital planners but enter into all aspects of being creative and being a storyteller. I want to have my own merch store one day filled with things that my fans and loyal customers actually want to buy. I want to write a series of non-fiction books aimed at storytelling and the creative process. I want to have a Facebook group and Discord group and community where we share our failures and successes with each other on a more personal basis. I want to grow my brand!
And the ideas don’t suddenly stop because I happen to be working on an important project (as I am all the time). In fact, I find the ideas come more frequently and loudly when I am working on something else. I believe it’s because I am both opening my mind to new ideas pertaining specifically to the project I’m working on and because it’s a way for me to trick myself into never finishing anything cause I’m too busy starting everything.
How to balance the ideas, get them all up and running, but manage to finish things along the way is the part that many of us struggle with. I know I struggle with this on a daily basis. I struggle so much that there are days I simply do nothing at all because my brain is too filled with all the things wanting my attention at once and I just can’t give it to them all.
I remember something my wife told me years ago when I had a total mental breakdown because I thought I could write six novels in one year and I found myself backed into a corner with no way out. I was running a very active Discord server at the time and I also was managing a digital magazine for storytellers that I was hoping would be a success and help other writers build their brand. It was too much for one person to carry. Too much responsibility and not enough time in the day to tend to all that needed tending. I cracked and I crashed. Hard. But she sat me down and made me decide what was most important to me? What would I regret not having done at the end of the year? The answer was simple: Writing my novel. Even if it was just one novel that I ended up finishing. The fact that I had come so far that year and had nothing finished was what broke me that day. But it wasn’t till I was forced to speak the truth to myself out loud about what was truly important to me did I realize what I needed to do. I left Discord and shut down the digital magazine. And you know what? Not only did I finish one novel, but I ended up completing two novels and one novella. It was probably my best writing year to date.
So, I pose these same set of questions to myself now and I pose them to you as well:
What is most important to you?
What will you regret not having finished by the end of 2021?
And I recommend speaking your answers out loud to someone other than yourself. Sometimes it helps to include someone else, even strangers, into our plans and ideas because it helps to keep us accountable to others and kicks our butts, basically. Cause, let’s be honest, how easy is it for us to procrastinate and not do what we know we should be doing because no one can talk us out of doing something more than we can talk ourselves out of doing it.
Now that you have answered those questions and told someone else in your life or even strangers on your social media, the time has come to do them! I suggest a schedule. Now I hate schedules as much as the next person. I find they are constricting and I prefer to just go with the flow. I mean, the reason for wanting to be a creative person who earns a living from my stories is so that I can avoid the whole 9 to 5 aspect of life! So why the heck would I impose a schedule on myself? The honest truth that even I must admit to myself is because they work. I suggest using whatever program or software you have and opening up the calendar and start blocking off time in your day and each week for what you intend on getting done. A task manager might be helpful here as well if you like seeing things in list form. Just remember a calendar and a task manager are two different things and can both help and hinder in different ways.
Use this to literally block off hours in your day-to-day with what you need to get done and what you want to get done. I like to create categories within my calendar that are also color-coordinated so I can see each event separately in a birds-eye view and ask myself if I’m devoting too much time to leisure activities and not enough time to writing or building my brand?
Google Calendar is free and I’ve heard great things about it. I don’t use Google Calendar though part of me feels I should. Instead, I use the Calendar app that comes standard with my Apple Ecosystem. And the reason I do this is because they are all connected. So whatever my calendar says on my MacBook Pro will appear on my iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to remind me when I should be doing something and for how long. That subtle nudge every day will work especially if you actually do what your calendar says you should be doing. You’ll find yourself getting things done daily but also weekly and monthly and those productive days work towards putting you in a more positive mindset.
Use this to visually see a to-do list of things you want to get done in a day. This can work in cases where you really can’t designate set chunks of time towards certain tasks because the time it will take for each varies day-to-day. So, instead of setting aside blocks of hours you will create a list and tick off each thing you do as you do them. One thing to remember here is not to make your list too long. Even if you think the things you put are easy and can be done in less than 30 minutes. The idea is to list out the most important things you need to get done and to actually do them. It can be difficult to be met with a list of ten things and think you can do them all in one day. I would say at least 3 and no more than 5 should be how many things you put on your to-do list each day. You’ll find you’ve done more by having less on your plate.
Similar to the Calendar app with my Apple Eco System I am using the Reminders app to manage my tasks. I’m actually on the fence about it and may find myself switching to use ToDoist which my wife swears by and also like Google Calendar, I have heard great things about.
I’m adding deadlines as a means towards finishing what we start because they also can help, just not everyone. There are those who become frozen in fear and literally will do nothing rather than face the dreaded deadline. They’d rather it never existed. It stunts their imagination and creativity. If this is you, don’t bother reading what I have to say. It’s okay. Deadlines aren’t for everyone. But for some of us, a deadline is another means of really kicking us in the butt and getting us to finish what we started. For instance, I’m working on a short story for a writing contest that has a deadline for when they will stop accepting submissions. This is a deadline I must meet or I will not be able to enter the contest. If I truly want to enter it then I will use that deadline as a motivator to get me not only to finish on time but to finish early and submit early. Cause I’m excited about not only the contest but the prospect of this contest forcing me to have a finished project! Think of a deadline as a positive motivator, nudging you ever so slightly towards a finished project sooner than you ever thought possible.
I wish I had an answer for how to stop the too many ideas long enough for you to focus and finish the ideas you already have before you. I don’t. And honestly, I don’t think I want an answer. As much as I hate having so many ideas going 24/7, I count myself lucky that I’m still being creative and my imagination is still active. There are so many people in the world who leave their creative minds behind in favor of other things that don’t push them to think outside the box. So, to all the ideas I have now? WELCOME! And to all the ideas yet to come? You are welcome here! Bring them all on, cause with a little time and patience I know I can get them all finished someday.