Ok, so you’re talking to this really hot girl – or boy, I’ll leave that bit of this hypothetical situation up to you (my only stipulation is that whoever/whatever you are chatting up has a rum and coke in one hand and one of those twinkle smiles, like a game show host or an eighties movie star…sorry, them’s the rules) – and you’re getting along like a house on fire. You like them, they like you, you both like jelly babies. The point is you work so well together. You’re perfection in the making. Hell, they don’t even mind that annoying thing you do with your toes every night.
Then along comes an even hotter boy/girl/jelly baby lover and just wades on in to the conversation without a care in the world. They’re loud and brash, but they are also exciting and new. Something about them screams “ditch this loser and come home with me”…it’s probably the ‘ditch this loser and come home with me’ t-shirt that they’re wearing. You don’t know much about this person, but what you can gleam from their unexpected bursts of conversation intrigues you.
You ditch the original babe (who was perfect for you) and start talking to the new love of your life. Oh my God, they’re funny and gorgeous and they have a huge house and know a tonne of influential celebrities…they can even teach you a new nightly toe trick, one a bit more kinky and ‘useful’ in the bedroom.
But who the hell is this stunner strolling up now? Holy crap donkeys on radioactive scooters from Pluto…now THAT’S a good looking person. So you push aside admirer No.2 and start…
NO! BAD writer! I mean BAD person-who-is-getting-chatted-up!
The intelligent ones in the audience (and I’m presuming that’s most of you) will have spotted the blatant metaphor about new ideas and flashes of inspiration…the dumb ones are still playing with their mouse and trying to feed it.
Most writers, most busy writers, will come up with new ideas regularly and without warning. There is no magic hour or ‘pencilling in’ a sensible time for brainstorming. As much as I wish I could book next Tuesday off work, get myself a couple of notepads, sharpen a few pencils and sit in my office ready to switch my idea factory to the ON position – it ain’t gonna happen.
Instead we wait for the next BIG idea, which as most of you know is pretty much just the NEXT idea.
“Wow, this one is a doozy, this is going to make me a million quid.”
Four minutes, thirty-seven seconds later:
“OMGWTFBBQ…this new idea is even better…billions”
Forty-two minutes, twenty-two seconds and four cups of coffee later:
I’m sorry to say that writer’s do not have an OFF switch. Our brains are always on, always listening for that snippet of information that will work perfectly in that annoying piece of dialogue we’ve been playing with for months; watching for someone who looks exactly like the MC we’ve pictured so we can take a photo for the book’s front cover; waiting for the voices to stop yammering for attention so we can actually get on with writing our current WIP.
Because we’re always on the lookout for ways to improve our existing or ongoing work inevitably other information will squeeze its way into our external auditory meatus or beam right into our optical nerves…it’s a reaction to our external environment, and just as people with low latent inhibition find it hard to filter out data and stimuli, we as writers are unable to ignore the constant barrage of information that comes our way.
Add to this an overactive imagination and child like glee at new and exciting ideas and you have a dangerous combination – a person who takes in ALL information and wants to manipulate this into NEW ideas.
How the hell do we ever get any work done??
The truth is its bloody hard work. I’m 80k into a horror novel (and have been for a long time), 12k into Camp NaNo (well behind), and halfway through several short stories but I STILL find my brain shouting at me to drop all of this and write about this GREAT new idea its just come up with. Only yesterday I had a flash of inspiration just before lunch and ended up furiously scribbling the outline of a new novel on the back of a compliment slip (it was the closest thing to write on, I have been known to write directly onto my desk with a pencil when I can’t find any paper).
It’s a royal pain in the arse.
There is no ‘fix’; we’re forever doomed to be tapped on the shoulder and distracted by the next best seller so its friend can go piss all over our current novel. The most shameful thing about all of this is that we usually just turn around, see the pissed on novel, and say:
“You’re right, it was shit but now you’ve come along everything will be perfect.”
Closely followed by the sound of a belt unbuckling as we squat to crap all over our hard work.
So if there is no cure, then what the hell do you do to stop from going insane? Does everyone else out there have a stack of ideas taller than Magic Johnson? What do you guys do to stop your brain from turning to mush as it get gang raped by ‘fresh’ and ‘exciting’ ideas??
Ooh, that gives me a great idea for a new…