Too Many Ideas: Steven Savage

This originally appeared as a post July 2011.

There’s a dilemma with brainstorming ideas.

First, there’s the problem of coming up with good ideas or enough of them. There are days when the ideas just don’t seem to appear, plots don’t work out, characters don’t come to life. Imagination supplies what’s needed with effort and time, but it’s often a painful process.

With practice and  time, writers get better and better at coming up with ideas. Your imagination springs to life easier and easier. Ideas come faster and faster. With enough cultivation, there’s a lovely buzz that comes from having the need for ideas being matched by the supply from your imagination.

Then comes the third stage, in many ways the hardest: when you have too many ideas.

First you start having extra ideas. Then more pile up. Soon entire plots and novels are just notes, character arcs are discarded, and brilliant plans are ignored. Once you’ve been turned into a brainstorming machines, it’s hard to turn it off (not that you’d want to, but …).

Having too many ideas is often as bad or worse than not having enough ideas.

It’s a classic dilemma that the hardest choice is often one between two good things. In time you, the writer, perhaps after much experience, perhaps early in your career, find yourself overloaded with “maybes” and “could be’s”, plots and dreams. Then you have to choose what to bring to life.

Where others may complain, as you once did, that they have no ideas, you have too many. You’ve gone from drought to flood.

This is normal, and something every writer has to confront.

If you’re not there yet? If you’re struggling for ideas? Trust me – it will come in time. Someday you’ll be overwhelmed, your notebooks filled with notes, scrawled diagrams, and frustrated realizations of what you can’t do.

If you’re there already? Then you have even more of my sympathy, as that’s my entire life. In fact, I’ll talk about that in times to come.

Sooner or later, you’re going to have too many ideas. That’s normal. That’s to be expected.

What do you do? Well, that’s for next column…

Steven Savage, ProGeek


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