What to Do When You Want to Do Too Much
I don’t have any answers. I’m just thinking out loud a bit.
I suffer from a chronic case of too much inspiration and not enough work ethic to finish things. Well, I finish some things, easier things, like screenplays and essays and such. But generally speaking, the ideas that I generate are grandiose and epic in scope.
For example, I wrote about 75% percent of a novel which was admittedly very self-indulgent and not marketable in the least. It had a lot of problems including the use of some very tired tropes that I don’t want to be associated with. Why’d I use them? Well, I didn’t really mean to. I realized the flaws upon reading them, not writing them. It was more about wish-fulfillment than crafting a good narrative.
Since then, I’ve written about 60% of a second novel. One that I’m much happier with, except for how I wanted to restructure the entire beginning (removing a prologue followed by a time jump, making it a more linear narrative). Reworking all the details, as well as filling in the gaps has ground my progress to such a slow pace I can’t help but feel discouraged by it. I’m still going though, and I consider that a win.
But I’m also getting more and more distracted by another novel I want to write. It’s a historical novel based on my great-great-great-grandfather’s experiences during the American Civil War. I’m lucky enough to have an extensive oral history of my family, as well as actual primary sources to use as research, included one of his actual diaries from his time in the war. I really want to write that story. It is incredibly difficult for me not to abandon everything and work on it.
But if I start it, then I won’t finish the one I’m trudging through.
Did I mention that I have been keeping another idea on the back-burner until I feel like my writing is good enough to pull off such an interesting plot? It’s topical though, so maybe waiting will prove disastrous. But the idea itself has the mass appeal as a thriller to be major, and I am terrified of ruining the idea with subpar writing.
Then there’s an entire saga I dreamed up. Set in the near future it’s a unique take on a post-apocalyptic Western. I want to cover the events of a family spanning at least 30 years. Not necessarily all at once. But there are specific periods and events within the family that would have to be covered. I had even conjured it up as a multi-media endeavor. Some of it would be told in novels. Some specific events would make great graphic novels. And there’s even a part that I imagined as a serialized television show. All following the same continuity but capturing different moments in time.
But that’s not all…
There are three documentary films that I want to make. (Sorry, for being cagey, but I’m protective of my ideas.) Two of them are centered on travel, which requires a ton of capital because travelling (at least the kind I’m interested in) isn’t free. The third doc, though, has next to no marketability, but I want to make it anyway. I come from an area with a rich local history (which my family was integral to) that not enough people are aware of, and I’d love to document it. There’s no money in that, I’m well aware. I’d still love to make it though, just to give copies of it to area schools and libraries.
And then there’s my dozen and half feature-length screenplays in various stages of completion.
And a laundry list of different essays, reviews, and other short-form “content” to bolster my online presence.
So what’s a writer to do when ideas are so prolific? At times it feels as though there just isn’t enough time in a life to do justice to all of these ideas. I certainly try. I hammer away at it nearly everyday usually making pretty decent progress by writing standards. But with each new idea, the hole I'm trying to climb out of gets deeper still.
Does anyone else have more ideas than they can handle? How do you pick and choose which ones to nurture into something real and which ones to let wither on the vine?
Do you bounce from one idea to the next indiscriminately? If not, how do you stay focused on the task at hand?
But what I really want to know from all of you fellow creative types, is am I normal? Is this what you all go through as well? Or am I some sort of outlier, blessed with the ability to generate idea after idea while the rest of you bang your heads against the wall trying to think of something? Or is it a more or less even split between the two types?
I feel like I should go write a thousand words now.
Thanks for reading. Please, let me know what you all think.