There was a pivotal moment in my writing life when suddenly I gained confidence in my words. I went from having one I-don’t-know-maybe-this-is-kind-of-a-good idea to having constant oh-my-gosh-I-think-this-is-the-next-great idea(s). It’s like uncovering buried treasure; most of it is gold coins that are exciting yet equal in merit, and a few of them are shiny, precious gemstones you want to hide for fear everyone will steal them away from you.
Now, of those precious gemstones, you get to covet and nurture just one. At least, that’s what seems to be the consensus from the pros on how to get a good (or great) book written. So what do you do with all those other gems?
If you’ve read Big Magic, you know about Elizabeth Gilbert’s “you snooze, you lose” theory: if you sit on an idea for too long, it’s not going to wait for you. It’s going to float back up into the ether and find someone else worthy of its presence.
But working on two (or more) books at a time is overwhelming, even just to think about.
And then there’s the inevitable pitfall of any writing endeavor: fleeting inspiration. At some point, no matter how much you love your idea, the self-doubt creeps in—or worse, writer’s block. And then those other gems looks shiny and new compared to your current smudged and scratched gem.
Nurturing More than One Idea
So how do you reconcile all these factors without giving up on your current project, ending up with several uncompleted projects, or biting off more than you can chew?
First, I think it’s important to commit to that first project wholeheartedly. As long as it’s working, as long as you believe in it, as long as it was the project that felt most right to bring forth into the world—even if in this very moment you are having doubts—then you need to finish it.
That being said, the psychology of writing is no walk in the park. At best it’s a long, wandering hike through a mountainous forest whose many paths are overgrown with tree roots and muddy impasses. The point is, there are going to be days or weeks—or even months—where you just can’t work on that main project. Be it writer’s block, lack of inspiration, or a roadblock you need to work through just by thinking instead of putting words on the page, that day will come. And when it does, these other gems get their moment to shine.
I’m not talking about jumping ship.
I’m talking about nurturing.
Your idea can’t go to someone else if you continue to pay it attention once in a while.
Giving Your Ideas Loving Attention
Depending on the project, this could be as simple as research; reading a specific book, doing an interview, or online searches for a topic. This could also mean beginning an outline to work through plot or developing characters. The distinction is that you are not jumping head first into a second endeavor while the first is still trying to make its way into the world. You are simply setting aside some headspace or free time to let that gem know it’s still important to you.
It could be once a week, once a month, or even once a year. But this second (or third, or fourth) idea becomes a security blanket, writer’s block therapy, or a spark of inspiration so that you may continue on your path of getting the first project done. And then, when you do, that next project already has a sprouting seed from which you can work.
And the best part? The cycle can continue indefinitely!