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Uncle Orson's Writing Class
Distractions from Writing
March 15, 2001


My problem is that I can't stay rooted to one project. I'll start to develop one story idea and then I'll watch a movie, or read a comic or even hear a song that reminds me of another idea that I had and I'll forget or "put aside" the initial project. It's so easy for me to get distracted from a project that I'm afraid I'll always leave projects half done. I was wondering if you've ever experienced that before (I'm sure everyone has at some point) and if you have any advice that might set me on the right path. Thanks for listening (or reading, technically).

-- Joey Cruz

OSC Replies:

Yeah, I run into that all the time. It's called "thinking like a writer." <grin>

Of course you keep running into new ideas and wanting to write something down about them. Why should you stay rooted in one project?

Oh, yeah. The part about getting published and paid. Harder if you never finish anything.

Here's the secret. None of those ideas is ready to write when you first think of it, anyway. Get enough ideas moving through your head -- and I don't just mean vague concepts, I mean ideas that you have seriously developed and started working out -- and pretty soon you'll find two completely unrelated stories that, when you combine them, suddenly come to life in a way that is so rich and inventive that all your ideas that keep coming up now fit within the story instead of distracting you from it.

So when you're working on one project and suddenly have an unrelated idea, sure, spend a few minutes or even hours working out that idea in its own terms. But then examine it through other eyes: To see whether it might be able to fit into (or be forced onto!) the project you were working on when you thought of it.

After all, that new idea came up during the creative maelstrom of the current project. It may well have arisen out of that current project in ways you aren't conscious of. So ... trust your unconscious and try to find ways to make them fit.

It doesn't always work. But it works an amazing percentage of the time.

The most important thing, though, is that you are constantly alert to ideas that can ripen into stories. That's vital, and you've got it.

-- 15 March 2001

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