This originally appeared on The Writing of a Wisoker on the Loose in August 2011.
Some edits were made to this version.
So you’ve got too many ideas, you’ll never use them all, and it’s frustrating. The days you didn’t have enough inspiration are long gone, replaced with an onslaught in your mind that’s making it hard to choose.
What do you do? You’re a writer, a dreamer, an engineer of imagination. It’s painful to ignore ideas, yet you don’t have the time, or they don’t work. You may even find yourself dreading the beginning of a new project, as so many ideas clamor for your attention.
I have been through this before, both in my fiction experiments and my non-fiction writing. I’ve also had friends who are artists and writers, and this has been a subject of discussion a few times.
Here are some of the solutions that I’ve found.
KEEP RECORDS: I keep Brainstorm books for a lot of my projects, and have a nice pile of them on a bookshelf. I review them regularly for ideas, so that the projects I want to do bubble to the surface, so that I get inspired – and so that I remember the choices I made and why. Also it helps to lull me into a sense of not abandoning my ideas but delaying them — it’s tricking myself, in a way, but it works.
GO WITH YOUR LOVES: With so many ideas in front of you, when you find one that really inspires you, run with it and let your passion fly. Why? Well, for one thing, going with what you love means you’re going to be totally focused on that idea and less likely to be distracted by all those unused ideas sitting quietly on yellowing pages and in text files.
NARROW YOUR SCOPE: Some ideas may be awesome, but can’t be implemented as full characters, novels, or chapters. So instead, narrow the focus if an idea just has to get used — do a short story, insert the character as an extra, etc. You can always use them more later (or at least comfort yourself with the possibility).
REPURPOSE: Repurpose your idea into something else that lets you use it. Maybe you relax with role-playing games — take a character you wanted to write about and play them. Maybe a neat character idea can become a convention mascot. Find a new (and time-efficient) way to use the idea in a different way, perhaps in an unusual way.
TITHE: Now and then at Fan To Pro and in my newsletter, The Geek Beacon, I toss out ideas I’ve had. They’re ideas I don’t have time to do or don’t want to do for various reasons. I won’t ever do anything with them — so I pass the ideas on to others. Be willing to part with your ideas; give them a chance to be used by other creatives you trust.
ACCEPT: You won’t use every idea. You’ll need to learn to accept that — but the other steps above can help dull the pain and frustration.
Having too many ideas will always be an issue — but you can make the distraction less aggravating with these methods.
Steven Savage in his own words:
I’m Steven Savage, and I am Geek 2.0.
OK … that sounds either pretentious or obscure, and I try not to be either too much. So what do I mean by Geek 2.0?
Geek 2.0 is a lifestyle. It’s about taking the geeky values of technology, knowledge, creativity, and media as far as possible. It’s a way of life – and a way of contributing to society.
I believe in taking Geekiness farther – into the next iteration, into 2.0.
Steven Savage is the author of the Fan to Pro blog and books (Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies; Convention Career Connection; Focused Fandom: Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers; Focused Fandom: Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers; Inhuman Resources; and Progeek Rising), has his own web site, and incidentally is the mind behind the popular Seventh Sanctum site. He also writes for Nerd Caliber and Comics Bulletin.