Musings 4: Too Many Ideas

It’s a common joke amongst writers, that we can’t focus on a single story concept without being distracted by several others. This often leads to dozens of started works and no finished products, which can be hard on a person’s sense of accomplishment. I had this problem bad. I had shelves filled with notebooks that had only a few pages of writing in them, and would simultaneously be thinking about yet another new story. I don’t do well at sitting down and planning out my ideas, I’d always prefer to just jump into the writing.

So I talked to a couple of friends, and eventually one told me to make what he called a “skeleton journal”. This was, he explained, where you wrote down all your ideas for your story in no particular order or format. Simply put, it’s where you infodump your ideas and worry about a set draft later. I took this idea and ran with it, and the best part was that it gave me a place to put my notes from all the research I would be doing for that story.

Now, I personally found through this method that I didn’t have as much of a story as I thought I did. A few chapters worth, at most. And for a while, it kind of stung. I wanted to be this decently famous novelist, who was well known for gripping reads and fun new takes on tired tropes. Meanwhile, I couldn’t even come up with a novel-length story. All my favorite pieces were only a few pages long and I had no intention of building on them.

And then I had an epiphany. I wasn’t having problems writing stories, I was having problems writing long stories. This was a relatively fixable issue, but more than that, short stories exist. That is a genre. One that I could, with some adjustments, fit my work into. Thus my focus shifted, and I finally filled a notebook. And then another. I had tangible proof that I was writing, and that I was making progress.

This eventually led to the blog you’re reading this on, actually. In school, I had wanted to publish a story of some kind before I graduated. For several complicated reasons, this never happened, but writing short stories freed me from that disappointment. I wasn’t leaving ideas unfinished, I was creating the foundations for something that I could come back and build on if I had the inspiration to do so, and if not, what existed already was enough. And then I realized that I could publish those short stories, if not on paper or in a bookstore.

I’m obviously not where I want to be yet. This blog is so small I can hardly call it a platform. But my writing is being seen, by infinitely more people than it would have been if I had kept it shut in my beloved and beat-up Walmart journals. So I want to suggest to anyone who has too many ideas and not enough brain space, consider starting with a short story or three, and move on to a skeleton journal. Or stop at the short story, if that’s what you want.

I find that being in a state of slight disorganization frees me from needing to have every detail planned out before I start writing. But that’s just me. All I want to do is to encourage you to try new methods if your current ones aren’t working.

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