While having lots of ideas for writing projects seems like a good problem to have, those “shiny objects” can quickly become a distraction from your work-in-progress. In today’s episode, we’re talking about what it really means when we think a new idea sounds better than what we’re working on. We’re also exploring a variety of methods for collecting ideas to save for later, and I share a special mantra for focus that I say many times a day. 

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Hello writers. Something that many of us struggle with is having a lot of new ideas. Now, as I say that, I know it might sound strange because new ideas are a good thing for writers, right? Well, yes and no, of course new ideas are good in general, the more ideas we have, the better pool we have to draw from when starting a new project. But if we’re already working on something, new ideas can become those shiny objects that distract us from our work in progress. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about why that shiny object syndrome or new ideas can become problematic when we’re already working on a piece of writing and in order to figure out what to do about that, we’re also going to discuss some strategies for collecting and actually using those new ideas.

And I’m gonna share with you my mantra for when a shiny new idea becomes distracting. It’s literally something that I say to myself every single day.

when we’re working on something. When we are in the middle of a rough draft, or we are in the middle of revising and we are distracted by new ideas, it’s not actually about those new ideas. The problem is our own self-doubt self-doubt might sound like my current work in progress. Isn’t good enough. Hey, that new idea is better. Maybe I should work on that instead, or it might sound like this current work in progress is taking a long time and I doubt that it’s even worth it. Hey, starting something new will feel better. This kind of thinking leads to a lack of follow through a lack of internal accountability, which then leads to projects not getting finished, which feeds into a general sense of doubt in our abilities to finish a project and the vicious cycle continues. And so while yes, there are times when it is right to abandon a project.

Most of the time, that urge is not about the project at all. Most of the time, it’s about our own self doubt. If we can remember that and manage our thinking and remember why we started working on this project in the first place, and you can listen to episode three for more about that, then the shiny new ideas just won’t be as tempting, but those new ideas do still come and we need a way to keep track of them for as many writers as there are in the world, there are that many different ways of keeping track of ideas as they pop into your head. Many writers keep paper with them in some forms at all times, just for this reason, when an idea pops into their head, they’re able to jot it down really quick on a scrap of paper or inside of a journal.

This is something that I have tried over the years, but I’ve run into a number of problems with it. First of all, I don’t like to carry a big purse, which means that most of the time, I am not gonna have a journal with me. Second of all, when I do have something small, like a notepad, I will rip those pieces of paper off and shove them into a file. But then I have a file full of scraps of paper, which feels too disorganized for me. And a little bit overwhelming when I open it. Something that I’ve started doing is using the notes app on my phone. And I also sometimes use the voice recorder app, gotta love technology, but listen, however you collect the ideas while you are out and about what is more important is what you do with them next. Do you have a drawer or a file folder full of scraps of paper?

Do you maybe keep them on an old fashioned Rolodex? Do you have a running list somewhere it’s really important that this step is very solid and that you revisit it frequently because this is where you want to be able to go in order to generate the next project that you’re going to work on, to be able to pull the idea out of and get started if it’s an incomplete system or if it’s a messy system that is not gonna be functional for you. So, like I said, I’ve started using the notes app on my phone when I’m out and about, or just even around the house, because my phone is usually within reach for better or worse. And like I said, also sometimes I use the voice recorder app. Then once a week, I schedule 10 to 15 minutes for downloading all of my ideas into a spreadsheet that holds all of my ideas.

Sometimes when it’s time to download my ideas, I have nothing to put in there. And then I have 15 spare minutes to do something else. Other times I’ve collected lots of ideas over the week and I have a few to put in there. Then as soon as I’m ready to start a new project, I don’t have to go back into my phone to look for them. I don’t have to listen to my voice recordings again. In fact, I can delete those off of my phone and not have that all cluttered. Instead, I can go straight to my spreadsheet. I have ideas on there from three years ago that I haven’t used. And I have ideas that I put in there yesterday.

you use my spreadsheet or some other system schedule a time where once a week, you’ll sit down with all of those scraps of paper or your notes app or your voice recordings or your journal that has pages tabbed. Take the time to actually download them into whatever system you are going to use. The key is to make a decision and stay consistent so that it becomes habitual and actually useful to your writing life. That way, when you’re working on your work in progress, you can relax knowing that your ideas are safely stored for when you’re ready and you can let go of them for now. Then when you’re ready to start a new project, those new ideas will be at your fingertips in a really accessible way.

But what if you’re working on a work in progress, And you’re at that stage where you’re kind of sick of it. And you have this new idea and it will not leave you alone. And you’re trying so hard to complete your current project. Here’s the mantra that I use. And like I said, I say this to myself more than once a day, I am working on the right thing right now. I am working on the right thing right now. I am working on the right thing right now. Sometimes we just have to remind our brains how we want them to think this is totally normal and it’s healthy. I am working on the right thing right now.

And remember a writing life is much like an exercising life or a healthy eating life. It takes intentional planning, dedication, accountability, and lots of self-compassion. I am always in your corner writers because I so strongly believe that you and your stories matter and that they are worth the effort. I’ll talk to you next week.