Idea Overload

Idea Overload

"No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come." – Victor Hugo

After finishing up a marketable draft of Blades of Grass in October, I gave myself a needed hiatus before beginning my next project. In November, I told myself, I’ll get started on my next book.

November came and went, and no progress had been made.

I thought perhaps I was up against that dreaded thing called writer’s block. I would try to work. I’d sit down at my computer or with my handy, dandy notebook and sketch out loose ideas. But I kept hitting a wall. I was blocked!

Or so I thought.

Then I ran across this Write to Done blog post by Gary Korisko that suggests it isn’t a lack of ideas impeding my progress, it’s quite the opposite: an abundance of ideas leading to a writer's log jam. While Gary isn’t the first person to coin this term, his explanation is on point:

Imagine yourself sitting facing an open doorway. You’re waiting for a courier to walk through and deliver an idea to you so you can write about it.

With writer’s block, the courier never comes. The doorway remains empty. You wait, patiently at first – then not so patiently as time drags on – but nothing happens. Writer’s block is seen as the absence of ideas.

Writer’s log jam is the opposite side of the same coin. Picture yourself facing the same open doorway – still waiting for a courier to walk in and hand you an idea.

But instead of one courier coming through at a time… 100 or 1000 of them, each with a different idea, come rushing at the same moment.

Since it’s all happening at once, they’re all jammed into the doorway, clogging the opening and making it impassable.

Just like a log jam.

And that has been my problem. It’s not that I have no ideas to write about. It’s that I have too many. There’s the needed revision of Straightville, U.S.A. begging for attention; the promising first chapter of another project I started between Straightville and Blades of Grass that never progressed any further; and the notebook of ideas, plots and title possibilities each deserving to be fleshed out.

It is deciding which draft, which idea, which inkling of a book to focus on that’s been my problem these past several weeks. It relieves a bit of the pressure realizing that it’s not a void of ideas that’s got me stuck, it’s a wealth of them. But, as G.I. Joe said, knowing is half the battle. It’s that other half that’s a real punch in the gut.

After a few days of serious sketching, brainstorming and idea-juggling, I’ve finally (maybe…possibly…tentatively) settled on what my next project will be. Of course, nothing is concrete. It’s still an idea in incubation. I’ve already scrapped and reimagined what little bit of work I’ve done. But that in itself is progress.

To all you writers out there, a question:

When up against your own writing log jam, how do you determine which idea to tackle first?

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