I think of myself as an “idea guy.” Why? Because I’m certainly not the alternative: the “work really, really hard sticking with it and writing multiple drafts until it’s the best it can be” guy.
Ideas are fun. Ideas are easy. When they come, they come. When they don’t, it’s not your responsibility. And when they turn into real work, well,… that’s usually when I get my next big idea.
Just this week I woke up with a fully formed idea for a TV series. This had never happened to me before. I was psyched, completely energized. Within hours I was asking everyone I knew whether it sounded familiar, if they thought it sounded interesting. By the next afternoon I had finished writing the opening of the pilot and had shown it around. I am cranking on this sucker!
But,… wait. What about Psycho Ex? What about Dead Guy? These have been in limbo for literally years, stalled at various stages (an entire draft of Psycho Ex had even been finished and sent out and I was part-way through a rewrite). What about that movie idea I had promised I would get started on for my actor friend back in December (sorry, Chuck)? What about that picture book idea with a collaborator (hi, Roxane) from 2009? Why did this brand new project suddenly get to cut to the front of the line?
Because it is new. And shiny. And the potholes aren’t visible just yet.
Because it’s just an “idea.” It isn’t yet, you know,… “work.”
It’s like surfing a wave. When a new idea comes, it comes with energy. And focus. And passion. And you have to ride that initial wave of energy as long as you can, as hard as you can, getting as much done as you can. Because once it’s gone, it becomes hard work. Before you know it, you don’t spend every moment at the day job thinking about all the details and plot points and characters you’re coming up with, building up steam to get off work and just write, write, write. Before you know it, it becomes one of all those other projects stacked up on your plate. Weighing it down. Weighing you down. Heavy and overwhelming. Before you know it, it becomes work. And you start dreading it. Avoiding it.
But you have to get to it! You have to write it! You are a writer, aren’t you? If you don’t write it, then what are you?! You sit down at the computer – you’re going to do this! And then you remember you were supposed to pay a bill. Or call that guy.
And if not, there’s always cleaning the house. (There’s that old truism about writers – the house is never as clean as it is when they’re writing.)
Paying bills, cleaning the house,… Before you know it, you’ll be writing blog posts about rationalizing about not writing. Anything to avoid real, actual, honest-to-God hard work.