sometimes the worst enemy of writing is imagination.
she is a tricky mistress, lady imagination. she will lure you into bed and tantalize you with pleasures before unknown and then she will deceive you, manipulate you, and lead you astray from the path.
i suffer from an overactive imagination as many creative writers do. it’s the reason i don’t listen to others better, a weakness and character flaw i seek to correct on a regular basis, to little avail. it’s also the reason, too often, that i can’t get any real writing done.
have you ever found yourself in the place where you have a great idea for a story? i mean, a GREAT idea for a story. and eagerly, impatiently, zealously you start pounding away on your keyboard, colors flowing from your fingertips. but then you have to stop – tiredness, work, a funeral – whatever the reason is, you have to stop. but you vow to pick it up later where you left off, because, dammit, this is going to be good.
and then – lo and behold – ANOTHER great idea! who are you? the Thomas Edison of writing? you think it’s almost unfair to have another idea this soon when so many “other” writers mope about writer’s block. not you. not today. so you scribble and type out your idea before it flies away into Neverland.
and then the next day, you’re sitting on the John and WHAT THE HELL?!?! another story idea. maybe not as good as 1 or 2, but good nonetheless and worth your time. you finish defecating, return to your lair of creativity and jot down notes.
this pattern continues, ideas coming with harem-like orgasmic abundance, no end in sight until one day, you wake up and realize what’s happened:
you have too many story ideas. you don’t know where to start. you don’t know where to end. do you drop everything and go back to #1? or no, number 12 seems the most likely to have a fan base, so maybe develop that one first. but no, that will take too long – ah, number 7 – that one will be easy to do, right? it doesn’t require any research.
and then you just want to cry. you want to write but don’t know what to do at this point – your creativity staved off by your own creativity – a cruel fate. lady imagination has had her way with you and left you festering with an overdosed brain.
i’m very much guilty of this. my hard drive and flash drive are filled with stories begun and not finished, books written but un-edited, screenplays that are no more than a title, character names, and a few punchy lines of dialogue.
in the end, there is only one escape from this cycle: you have to re-assess.
and that might mean taking a break.
common writing wisdom says that you need to write something every day. but when this is the problem you’re facing, the only solution – like raging alcoholism – is to go cold turkey for a season. abstain. cleanse.
and then, after a week or two, maybe a month if necessary, your brain will have the chance to reset and you’ll be ready to go.
don’t hear me saying it’s wrong to write multiple things at once. sometimes that can be good, but limit it. for example, the Coen brothers wrote No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading at the same time, just going back-and-forth and because the two pieces were so different, it helped their creativity.
just be careful. don’t fall into the trap of biting off more than you can chew. so long as you don’t get carried away, lady imagination will be a great lover.