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  • Writer's pictureallieyohn

The Temptation of a New Writing Project

There comes a moment when I'm working on a piece/story/novel for a while where I start to hate what I'm writing. And that's where the temptation of the new writing project pops up like a bejeweled jack-in-the-box to distract me.

You'd think the more often I write, and the more years I pursue writing, that I'd have gotten past falling for that temptation. To me, the sign of maturity for a writer is probably never having that feeling... or having it and easily working past the feeling until you love your work again.

I often find myself abandoning pieces/stories/novels in favor of the New, Shiny Idea.

The benefit of the New, Shiny Idea is it has none of the inherent flaws I've discovered on what I'm supposed to finish. Those plot holes, bad grammar, thin characterizations, or even lack of a well imagined world don't exist in the New, Shiny Idea.

The New, Shiny Idea is perfect.

Of course, later on in the process I will discover all the flaws also exist in the New, Shiny Idea. The most important part of writing is getting words on the page in the first place. But those words mean nothing if you don't also plan for the second most important part of writing... rewriting.

I have never excelled at rewriting. Part of the issue is my severe ADHD. Don't tell my former English or History teachers, but I've never finished a paper for class more than 24 hours in advance. *In fact, I've never started a paper for class more than 24 hours in advance. I needed the stress of a ticking time clock vs a failing grade to force my brain to cooperate and work on the papers.

Were these papers the best ones ever written? No. I managed to eek out B's, C's, and multiple A's on papers written a few hours before class began. One of the highest grades I ever received was on a paper for Of Mice and Men. I wrote the entire paper for the novel in the computer lab an hour before it was due. **I got an A+.

As a direct consequence, I never trained my brain to rewrite. If you spend more time perfecting papers and essays before they're due, you have time to rewrite. When you're writing it at the last minute, you're dumping every thought in your brain down on the page and hoping for the best.

Sometimes, though, the New, Shiny Idea is actually a project we should be working on. You have to judge it against your current projects though.

I've been struggling to complete anything. I have multiple pieces I've bounced between for the last few months and every time I sit down to write it feels more like a chore than a gift. I've found myself making excuses NOT TO write rather than trying to find time to do so.

The New, Shiny Idea currently percolating in my brain was sparked by, of all things, TikTok videos about the new movie "May December." It incorporates ideas I've floated in other works, only to ultimately cut them because they didn't quite convery what I wanted them to convey. Bits and pieces of the story keep popping up into my mind and I'm taking the time to write down all these snippets until I'm ready to actually start writing the novel.

In the meantime, I'm using the New, Shiny Idea as a reminder of why working on New, Shiny Ideas can help as a writer.

When you face a hurdle you can go over it, through it, around the side of it, or turn around and run away from the hurdle altogether.

Some sail over it by figuring out the exact right way to face the problem head on and move past it.

Others force their way through the hurdle head-on. Their solutions on the page might not be elegant, but for a first draft they convey what they need to in order to move the story along.

Then there are those of us who slide past the problem by going around the side and moving on with the story. Once in a while, the best way to go around the side is by taking a stroll through another area of the track before coming back to the hurdle again..

When I'm working on a new piece, part of my brain is still working on the issue from the piece I was working on. What usually happens is I'll get to a hurdle in the New, Shiny Idea and consciously remember the other piece I was working on before I started working on the New, Shiny Idea. And, like magic, the solution to the problem on the page of the old idea comes to me and I can start writing again.

Are there some ideas and hurdles I walk away from permanently? Yes, but for good reason. For example- I started writing a cozy during NaNoWriMo and realized halfway through the month that I am incapable of writing a cozy. They take a certain skill set to write which I do not have. Cheers and congrats to anyone who can write one and write it well- they are truly talented.

However, even in the pieces I walk away from, there are still bits and pieces which can be salvaged for other works. Theme ideas, characters, locations- all are recyclable into new works. Every professional (and semi-professional) writer I know cautions new writers to never throw a piece away entirely for that exact reason.

As tempting as a New, Shiny Idea is you have to truly know yourself to know whether it's worth pursuing.

Are you using this idea to help you work on a problem you're having in an existing piece?

Are you pursuing this idea because you've thought it through and realized it has potential to be something great?

Or are you pursuing it because it's an easy way out of finishing another project, where it will later become another abandoned project when another New, Shiny Idea appears?

The only person who can answer that question is you. So the next time a New, Shiny Idea appears, remember to ask yourself why you want to pursue it before you jump away from your existing project.

*Correction- there was one paper in college. We had to write a paper discussing the theoretic meanings behind my favorite Poe story "The Fall of the House of Usher." The professor did not put a maximum page limit on the paper. I handed in a 40 page paper for the first draft. My professor looked at the paper, looked at me, and promptly told the class that the second draft had a maximum page limit of 10 pages.

**I still maintain I did not deserve the grades I received throughout my school career. Most of my teachers knew exactly how chaotic my home life was, and how much I struggled with mental health issues. I'm certain everything I wrote and handed in was also graded against how hard they knew it was for me to hand it in against those barriers in the first place. For example- my senior year (months after a suicide attempt EVERYONE in town knew about) I wrote a government paper on feminism and the government which literally made no sense. There wasn't even a conclusion. I got an A.

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