For the first post of the new year, let’s talk about a normal writer issue: Shiny New Idea Trouble. How this usually manifests: you’ve been working on a project for a while. Your initial momentum is gone, because like any moving object, writing responds to the forces of thrust and drag.
You have a shiny new idea! It’s so good! It’s the best idea you’ve ever had, maybe?!?! It’s definitely better than the idea you’ve been working on. It has to be, because that idea isn’t zipping along like it used to. But should you abandon the old idea to work on the new one?
Probably not. SNITs are normal. The thing you’ve been working on loses steam and slows down and feels like it’s not as awesome as it was when you started. Every new idea is perfect because it exists in a state of potential rather than reality. As soon as you start writing it, that precious ideal thing gradually congeals like cooling grease or blood, messy and flawed.
If you abandon your original idea and start working on the new one, you have lots of momentum again. Plenty of thrust to overcome drag and friction. Energy levels are high, enthusiasm gauge is full. You have enough lift to defy gravity and fly!
But another SNIT is inevitable.
So, what to do instead? You can write down a summary of the new idea, as short or detailed as you want. Let your imagination play, but not for so long that a pit stop becomes a layover. Take notes, write a synopsis. Start a Pinterest board. Then, the most important step: go back to working on your other project.
If possible, steal some of the SNIT energy and leverage it to make progress on your original project. If you set a goal for that–say, a certain word count or amount of time spent on it per day–then you can make a deal with yourself that when you reach the goal, you get to work on the shiny new idea for a while. It becomes a reward rather than a distraction or detour, like giving yourself a snack-sized candy every so many miles on a long drive.
Chances are, your disenchantment with your current project is temporary. It’s a normal slump. Different authors tend to hit it in different places, and it can vary by project. It might be after the first few chapters, or around the halfway point, sometimes known as the swampy middle. You can get through the swamp. Avoid the fire and the lightning sand and the rodents of unusual size (which may not exist). But don’t give up!
…unless you’re actually, absolutely sure the current project isn’t worth finishing. This does happen. Maybe you’ve grown as a writer. Maybe you realize you’ve been toiling at something that genuinely doesn’t work for one reason or another. You could take a seam ripper to it and figure out how to sew it back together, but maybe the amount of time and effort needed isn’t enough to justify the final reward. Sometimes it’s best to acknowledge and appreciate what you’ve learned from the process and move on.
It takes careful self-reflection and honesty to figure out the difference between a SNIT and a valid reason to trunk a project. You may be inclined to make excuses in your desire to pursue the new idea. You want that fresh energy, that novelty. It makes your brain tingle and effervesce. Don’t waste all your time chasing that feeling, because it’s fleeting–though there are ways to try to generate it for existing projects, as I previously covered in this blog post.
All that said, it’s your life! Do what works for you. If you can flit between projects and still complete all of them, super awesome. If you’re okay with writing a bunch of half-finished things, go for it. I mean that sincerely; I used to play World of WarCraft, and my favorite thing to do was make a new character and get to level 20 or so, then stop and make another new character instead of pushing myself to get the first character all the way to level 60. Sometimes fun beats hard work because the fun is the point. Every process is different, and every person has different needs and goals.
And someday, you may find that old, tired idea at the bottom of your trunk and shake it out and realize it’s pretty shiny after all.
If you have other tips for how to avoid or overcome a SNIT, drop a comment!