Many years ago I remember asking a dear friend of mine (who was a fashion designer at the time ) if she ever worried about running out of ideas for her fashion label.
As a fledgling writer, that used to be one of my fears. I was scared I would run out of ideas. Not to mention the fear that my ideas were not good enough but I’ll leave that one alone for now, I have entered into the territory of a whole different post!
Mind you this is back in the days when I did more thinking (and worrying about writing) than actual writing itself. That time has thankfully passed.
My friend said no, she never worried about it. She always had lots of great ideas. I remember feeling envious of her at the time, thinking she knew some secret that I didn’t.
When I started working from home I bought myself a large A5 notebook. I wrote everything down in my notebook, including all of my brainstorming ideas for articles/pitches/blog posts etc. What I soon realized was coming up with the idea was not necessarily the hard part.
During my brainstorming sessions I was coming up with a lot of ideas. Naturally some of them would be discarded, however I still ended up with a satisfactory outcome to work with.
The hard part I soon came to understand was taking the initial idea and seeing it all the way through to completion.
The other night I had drinks with a friend. She is a creative and intelligent woman who has a lot of great ideas and concepts. The problem is she rarely follows through on them. No sooner does she come up with one idea to work on, when it is quickly replaced by another. The earlier idea is then put on the back burner and the cycle continues.
I found myself falling into a similar trap when I started sorting through and working on my pitch ideas. I would get an idea, start planning and doing a bit of research, get a quarter way through and then jump to another project and repeat the process.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we get the luxury of working on only one project at a time. Far from it. Like many other professions, writers need the ability to work on a variety of different projects at the same time.
What I am talking about is the ability to FOCUS on the one idea and take it from start to finish. To be able to remain focused and motivated right till the end.
Here are some tips I have found that have helped me so far.
- After you have done your brainstorming, make a decision on what idea to work on. The key words there unless you missed them are – make a decision. Pick one. Start there.
- Set yourself a plan. This is actually a personal choice for me. I like to do a simple plan with bullet points for each piece of my writing. I am sure other writers have preferences in regards to planning. If you are a more visual person, perhaps drawing on a white board may work for you for example.
- Give yourself permission to drop the story idea if need be. Recently I was pitching a story but my sources wanted to remain anonymous. Unless I could use their names the story had no chance of acceptance. In hindsight I should have dropped the idea earlier and moved onto the next one. Instead I tried to find ways to come at the story from a different angle. In the end it didn’t work, it was simply lost time. Sometimes you actually need to give up and move onto your next idea.
- Set yourself a deadline. I have discovered that I am great sticking to other people’s deadlines but can be a bit slack reinforcing deadlines I set for myself. Big mistake. Treat your personal deadlines as important as a deadline to a client. Having a solid set deadline and a plan to reach it, will help motivate you towards that finish line. An attitude of ‘I will finish it sometime next week’ will not keep you motivated.
- Stay focused. Though you may have to work on several projects at once, be in the moment and fully committed to a project when you are working on it.
- See each idea through to the end (by which time of course you should already be working on your next idea or two!)
Do you have any particular tips for staying focused and on track and for making sure your completed idea sees the light of day?
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