Three days ago, a friend dropped off a book. This is something she does periodically, leaving things on our front bench and then texting me to go outside and check. “I just knew this would inspire you.” I didn’t even have to read the back cover before I found myself jotting down an idea. Yesterday, I saw a new book in a marketing newsletter. The title inspired another new idea. I wrote it down. Today, I listened to something about a Carnegie library. Here came another idea.
Then one of my friends on social media posted. “I’ve been working on a novel, but a new idea came to me. I wrote the story. It is best to act on inspiration.”
Maybe. But it all depends on how you work. If I did this, I would never reach the ending of anything too long to draft in one sitting. I would certainly never finish the draft of a novel. My mother always said that I was like a myna bird. Any bright, shiny object is likely to distract me.
New ideas work much the same way especially if I’m wading through the second half of a novel. By then, the shine has worn off my current project and it is serious work. Every time I sit down to write, I chant a few rounds of I think I can, I think I can.
Some people only have this problem in the very middle. Me? It lasts more of less through the second half of the manuscript. By then I have a pretty good idea what I have to fix and I’m not even done with the first draft! The new idea, on the other hand, is so shiny and marvelous and unblemished. Wouldn’t it be great to spend the day writing it instead?
Yes, I could start writing on something new. But if I did this every time I had a great new idea, I’d start three or four new things a week.
How do I reach the end of a project? I sketch out that new idea. When I’m eager to work on it, I think about it for a few minutes. I write out that idea I just had for a character. I take a few notes on the setting. I write down the story problem.
But when it is time to write, I get back to work on the old manuscript. Because the only way to reach the end is to keep writing. Word by word, you are getting closer to having a finished manuscript. If you want to reach the end, you need to work on it.