You get an inspired idea for a blog post, story, or screenplay. You can almost see it in your head. It’s good – very good. It’s so important that you decide to save it for some future time, when you can give it your full attention.
When you finally have the time, you open up the notes or revisit the idea, and blah!
You can remember the idea, but not the excitement. It doesn’t seem exciting or interested anymore.
Unwritten ideas do not age well.
What Happens to Ideas that Remain Unwritten
Ideas rarely have an expiration date. They do not go bad or get moldy like that yogurt you forgot in the back of the fridge.
An unwritten idea is more like that pair of jeans hanging in your closet – the ones that no longer fit like they should.
The concept is still fine, but you have changed.
Perhaps you’ve seen a different version of that idea somewhere, and that experienced colored your perceptions.
Or your perspective has shifted.
Most likely, your brain has gotten bored with those ideas and moved on to other things. The idea no longer matches the brain that produced them.
When you are excited about writing an idea, your Muse is working on the project, firing off suggestions, rummaging around looking for connections in your brain. This is the time to write. When you put it aside for long enough, the Muse moves on to other things, and the Scribe is left looking at an abandoned shell of an idea. (See this blog post about the Muse and the Scribe for background.)
What should you do with an exciting new idea?
Start Writing While the Muse is Engaged
If you think you’ve got a great idea and the thoughts are brimming in your head about it, then the future is now.
The initial concept is just the starting point in writing. Execution is what really matters. For execution, you need your creative, associative mental processes working in the background and collaborating on the effort.
The best time to write about something is when you feel enthusiastic about it. Even if you don’t know everything about it yet and still have research to do, dive in.
At best, this will keep your brain engaged on the subject, exploring the topic and feeding the ongoing excitement.
At worst, you may realize that the idea won’t pan out as expected. Discovering this fact sooner may be a blessing, as you it frees your mind to pursue other directions.
What if I Really Must Wait?
Sometimes you truly must wait to pursue a project. For example:
- You are in the middle revising something major, like a book, when another idea entices you to write about it. (This could be an avoidance technique in disguise.)
- You are months away from retirement and completely swamped trying to make your exit. That writing project belongs to your post-retirement future.
Even in these situations, it can pay to take the time to maintain a background level of progress on the idea. Keep stoking the fire of the unwritten idea.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Take notes as they occur to you and add them to a file.
- Do some freewriting about the idea once or twice a week.
- Do related reading or research (and take notes).
- Record thoughts and ideas as they come into your head.
Taking these small actions, even in ten-minute bursts two or three times a week, keeps the background mental processes working on the idea.
Then when you send off the book manuscript to the editors or leave that “farewell lunch” in your honor, you’re ready to embark on the new project. You won’t be starting at ground zero, the blank page, the empty slate. You will already be several steps down your new path.
If you’re serious about that future project, check out the book The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear. It may help you figure out the fastest way to complete that writing.