For writers it’s the new story idea. No matter how much I love the current story I’m working on, there always comes a time when a new idea will pop into my head. A new “brilliant” idea, sparkling and unspoiled by translation. When an idea is first hatched it’s completely free, its had no boundaries put on it, and it’s full of limitless possibilities—it’s beautiful. But as you begin to work with the new idea some of the initial spark fades, you’re out of the honeymoon phase and you suddenly realize that this is hard work! But you stick with it because you love this story and you want to see if finished…that is until some new beautiful story idea comes along; one that hasn’t ripped out your heart on multiple occasions, hasn’t made you bang your head against a wall wondering why you’re even doing this. No, it’s new and perfect. So you veer from the path, you write a little on the new story (perfectly harmless), but the new idea is so fresh and fun that you find yourself spending more and more time with it and suddenly your old story is collecting cyber dust (or real dust, if you’re going old school,) but it doesn’t matter because this new story “is the one!” Well, maybe, until another story idea pops up and steals your attention.
For writers this can easily become a deadly spiral that we get caught in again and again. The fact of the matter is that writing, like marriage, or anything else worthwhile in life, is hard work. We don’t always enjoy it, but—unless we want a string of unfinished stories scattered behind us—we have to be willing to look past the new flashy idea and see our current project to the end.
Luckily this isn’t a perfect metaphor and as such some writers can successful work on multiple projects at once. (I would not suggest trying that with your relationships!) But the most important thing in writing is to finish things, to learn to focus on a task and complete it.
I am a writer who is currently struggling with this. Just last week I got distracted from working on my novel because of a new idea. It’s fine to take notes, outline, even write scenes for it, but you shouldn’t abandon your current project just because something new has come up. If you do, how will you ever smooth away the rough edges of your work and make it the best it can be?
We can’t always take the easy route, sometimes we have to push through and ignore the will-o’-the-wisps. Even though they’re beautiful and charming, they will lead you astray. Good luck!
By day Sarah Sanborn works in a rental store with excavators, chain saws, chairs, dishes, and any number of other exciting objects, but by night—and her days off—she tries to piece together the wild ideas that run through her head into coherent stories. Her favorite place to write is in coffee shops, where she can spy on people for inspiration when she gets stuck. She’s currently working on polishing a Sci-fi/Fantasy novel she wrote last November during the National Novel Writing Month, if all goes according to plan she hopes to publish it in the next year or two. You can follow her blog or follow her on Twitter @LadyOfThePen