Focus & Discipline in The Idea Factory


I’m starting to think that perhaps I’m lacking a tad bit of it.

Not the discipline to sit down and write mind you. I’ve been doing more and more of that lately (pats self on back). Rather I lack the discipline to stick with one idea and run with it. It’s like the opposite of writer’s block (writer’s flood?).

My brain is a factory that keeps churning out ideas, and as soon as a new one pops out of my noggin, I feel an overwhelming desire to write about it. And I do.

Recently, while working on my zombie novel, I came up with ideas for two completely different novels: one deals with a group of teens who dive into dreams and memories (memories have been a recurring theme in my last few blog posts). Their shared dreamworld is a sanctuary from the outside world, which is pretty harsh on them.

The other is a novel that takes place in a world where mythological creatures of all kinds coexist. The main character is called a Judge who keeps the peace between all of the differing factions of beasts. This novel speaks of my love of mythology (especially Norse mythology).

The descriptions above are the barebones version, of course; I’ve fleshed each out in a document. But the more time I spend on them, the less time I spend on my main novel.

So, for all the writers, painters, musicians, filmmakers, or anyone else who feels the pull of opposing ideas, how do you stay disciplined and work on just one idea at a time? Or have you come up with a way to multi-task and dip into all of those freshly minted ideas? I need to get all of the lil’ homunculus in my head working towards the same goal. 🙂


18 comments on “Focus & Discipline in The Idea Factory

  1. Great plot bunnies, the first one is similar to one of my later books. Myths are fun too! Usually I flush them out on paper until I can’t think of anything else on that idea and come back to it later, after I’ve worked on my current project. It’s great to have new ideas, just squeeze out the juices and keep going. Don’t linger too long or you’ll wander away!

    • Haha, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of: floating away on a cloud of ideas. I like your suggestion though: to get everything out on paper until I exhaust the ideas, and then move on to my current project.

      The myth novel has such a nice setting in my head; it’s a place I’d want to live in. Some books you read and you enjoy the story and the setting–like a dystopian, post apocalyptic future–but you wouldn’t really want to visit that place. The myth novel would be a place I’d definitely want to live in, sort of like Hogwarts. :p

      Thanks for your input. 🙂

  2. I am not a writer, but I am full of a vast assortment of ideas on a number of different topics, so I understand your predicament completely! If you find a miracle solution to stay disciplined and focused on one idea at a time, PLEASE let me know! =]

  3. I don’t know, but I try to treat those little bubbling ideas really as side projects – so I’ll do something on them when I have a few minutes, but not long enough to get into ‘novel’ headspace, or when I need a break from the longer work. But the longer piece you really want to finish should still perhaps be the thing you consider as ‘work’. I suppose what I’m raving on about is putting each one into a separate mental box.
    Just as long as you don’t lose the good ideas that do bubble up! Could some of them (perhaps not the novel ideas above) be incorporated into your novel? Or are you a stern pre-plotter?

    • I’ve definitely taken bits and pieces from other ideas and incorporated into this novel before. I guess what I’m stuck at is the tone of the other two novels I described are different from the one I’m currently working on. They exist in a world that I would want to inhabit while the zombie novel isn’t a world I’d want to live in, you know? But I still enjoy writing about the zombies. 😛

      I’ll definitely have to find the discipline to work on the other two pieces of writing as side projects like you mentioned.

      Thanks Kat. 🙂

  4. “A group of teens who dive into dreams and memories… …Their shared dreamworld is a sanctuary from the outside world, which is pretty harsh on them.”
    That just gave me goosebumps. What an intriguing plot, like Chronicle meets Inception. I would pay money to read that…and I’m not just expelling warm air.

    • Thanks, man. It’s funny that you mention Chronicle. I actually was a little inspired by that movie. Sort of like a secret club of dreamwalkers who mold their own realities in the dream world.

      And Inception was great, of course. Much more “realistic” than I would make my dreamworld but still a good source of inspiration.

  5. Focus on only one idea? Oh I’ve not been able to do that for quite some time. Many different stories going on at once, other folly attempted along the way…If it’s a project ranking high on the ‘deadline/should’ scale, that does get completed. Otherwise, whichever Muse takes control…

  6. My “writer’s flood” seems to happen when the first flush of working on a project is over and the hard slog of putting one paragraph on the screen, one patch of pixels or paint on canvas towards getting to the already fully real and imagined end product, takes over. That’s when the flood gates of ideas open and it’s hellishly hard not to go scampering off in their beckoning direction. Alas! I feel the other commentars are right – best to scribble the idea down somewhere and get back to the project at hand. Which reminds me…..

    • Hmmm, you know, I’ll have to think about when exactly my writer’s flood hits. It may have hit me when, as you mentioned, I had to put on digital paper what I had in mind. It’s almost like an escape mechanism: “Hey, instead of trying to write this scene, why not come up with all of these ideas instead!”. A bit of a red herring. . . 😛

  7. I wish I had an answer to that question. I get distracted the moment I go on my blog and can’t stop reading other blogs till I lose track of time and forget to blog! 🙂

  8. Ok, Mike, way to slap your proverbial cock across the face of many a writer. Unfortunately, ideas don’t flow for me like this, you bastard. Well, that’s not true. Maybe in a different way. Like I have a flood of all the details- like a cool line, or a scene, or a shot, but the whole plot/larger outline thing, out the doy (door).

    Ummm, I love both your ideas. I have been fascinated with dreams forever- even before The Cell. Last night, and I swear to every Christian god, that me and my fam were imprisoned on a “plantation” if you will inhabited by a huge population of, for lack of better word, savages (that really were Native Americans). They were so cruel and were hoarding pale skins on their land. They raped, beat, had a psychopath white electrician who threatened my ma with a drill, shunned technology (laughed at a jet overhead-thought it was a god), and were 7 feet tall. I know this dream is just ripe for interpretation.

    Can your mythological creatures novel be a comedy? And can the judge be a goat? What you know about some goats- aside from their heads being shaped like a pentagram. Okay, now this is flooding of words.

    I’m at no place to offer advice. But I say embrace the chaos. Fuck the “discipline.” Work on three things at once. Start in the middle and go back……..Eh, maybe this is why it’s taken me 5 years to write a thesis…

    • Haha! Why are you not making millions with your writing yet?

      If I had money, I would buy the rights to all of your dreams. I can see the grindhouse movie posters for that dream of yours: a jeering savage holds a fainting pale faced woman with huge breasts. In the background, the plantation is tinged in blood red, the workers black silhouettes.

      In large, yellow, dripping letters, the title would say something like . . .”Fields of Gory.”

      We should totally collab on something.

      I like the goat idea! Maybe the goat’s square irises could grant him power over all beings. Can I have satyrs too? Half man, half goat people sounds cool. I could eve have sex scenes where you’d find out how a satyr is made. (*hint* a human and a goat are involved).

      By the way, you never told me what your sign was (I answered your signage question in a post that probably got buried. I’m a Sagittarius).

      • OMFG, I looovvee the Blind Gory idea. Seriously, before you said, I thought “let’s collabo.”

        We can collabo and make a dry,wry indie flick about relationships and the blogosphere. Too feminine??

        WTF, I reposted that comment about you being a Sagittarius centaur. It wouldn’t take the first eight times.

        I am obsessed with goats- partially become Capricorn is a goat- with a fish’s tail- badass! I would give my left nut to see a comedic mythic movie that chronicles how half-men half goats are made.

        Too true about the Wire. But it’s, and being an Ital-American, I say this with great hesitance, it’s prob better than the wire.

        And being an Ital-American, I say this with chunks rising, the though of Italians boning makes me wish I was never born. Gag.

  9. As for me, a painter, I do have a kind of ‘chaine de montage’, although not like the one invented by mister Ford, but the same principle apply, I work on 12 to 15 pieces, and they make a chain all around my appartments, trying to work one after the other, of course sometimes I do let a bit of disgression happening….and I try to keep different medium in the line, oil, acrylic pastel….early in my ‘career’ I wasn’t able to finish many and I was starting numerous works, now of course sometimes it is way to long to finish one…but I do have a better ‘production’…hate that word…:)))

  10. I don’t know if this will help, but I do one of two things when I get a very VERY highly distracting thought:

    1. I jot something down BRIEFLY (think less than 5 sentences) to indicate the thought, save it in a file, and go back to what I was working on, or…

    2. Ignore the thought. In the second case, if something really needs to emerge, it will (and has) come back later and I can deal with it when I’m ready.

    Of course no system is perfect, I have scraps of uncreated short story ideas strewn about in my “stories” file folder. I really need to clean them up and arrange them so I can go back to them in a more orderly way.

    (the note jotted above has been cut n pasted here from the comments section on my blog from a response I wrote to someone for my posting on March 10th called The Giant Ear … Mike you posted your own comments there too. I think we discussed similar ideas. Hope you don’t mind my self-plagiarism…)

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