Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Have Too Many Ideas, How Do I Choose One

This is the third in a series of articles on Creativity, To see the previous ones go here.

I Have Too Many Ideas, How Do I Choose One?

“If you ever want to know what a creative persons mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open. All the time.” I saw that on Facebook the other day.  It brought a smile to my face as I realized how true that statement is.

As a coach and a student of the creative process I run across all sort of common statements that creative people make.  One of them is “I have too many ideas, I don’t know which one to focus on.  I get frustrated so I end up doing nothing.”

Most creative people have a multitude of creative ideas. In most cases they are not focused on all of them at the same time. If you are a writer you may have a work in progress that takes most of your creative energy. Often in the middle of a novel, you’ll get an idea for another story.  You are really excited about it and just might be tempted to write this new story instead of what you are working on.  Writers call this the Shiny New Idea. It is tempting to chuck the current project but its a road you don’t want to go down.  I recommend creating a file writing down some notes and saving it for later.  Then go back and finish your work in progress,  Your new idea will be waiting for you when you are done.

What if you have ideas for 3 projects or ten, what do you do then.  I often find myself in this position because I do many different kinds of creative things.  I write both fiction and non-fiction, I spin yarn and weave fabric and knit too. I also art journal and paint and craft. As you might imagine I can not work on all these things at the same time.  For me it seems like I do one or more of these more consistently at certain times of the year. Right now I seem to be in weaving mode, so since my focus is more on that, I have less time to do art. But I still want to do the art, so I do get frustrated at not being able to do it all.

I’ve had days where I lament that I haven’t done any art. Then I see my loom and remember a project that I want to be working on. Or its a sweater I want to finish, but I really should work on my novel.  I may choose certain days to work on certain things. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. The list of creative projects I want to do becomes endless and soon I find my self in overwhelm.  Often I need to just step away from everything.  I need a break and I will just read a book or take a walk, commune with nature a little bit. Then I can come back and work on the one thing that calls me.

My favorite piece of advice for someone who has too many projects and does not know what to do, is to make a list of them. If you are a list maker like I am, you will not have a problem with this. I like lists, I like to make them and cross things off them. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. I will make a list of all my projects and ideas.  Then I read the list with the idea of choosing what I might want to work on. I look for which of the projects that gives me a zing, makes me excited or energized. That's the one I choose.  If I have more than one, I try to think of which one would I be willing to give up everything for. When I choose this one, I know its right by the way it makes me feel. It seems to have more energy about it.

Many of our creative projects take a long time.  We want to be thrilled and excited when we are working on them.  I use what I feel to guide me, I follow the energy. When I get enticed by all the other projects, I find myself saying 'no I am working on this now'. For some reason my psyche seems satisfied with this.  I can focus on the project I have chosen and don't feel as drawn to the others. I know they will have their time too.

The next time you are stuck, or overwhelmed by your projects, try making a list and choose the one with the most energy.  It will help you focus, and accomplish those projects that you want to. You won't feel so scattered anymore and you'll start finishing things.

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  1. Thanks for this post, Kate. I needed to hear this. I laughed when I read the part about the browser with all the tabs open. That's me!!

  2. I have the same problem of sorts. So many interests, which to choose? I find it very helpful to draw up a daily schedule and plug in each project, prioritizing them. Mostly I write, but painting and photographing feed the writing process, so they're all essential.


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