Anonymous asked: I need help. I’m writing too many stories. I have at least 5 stories that are in various states of being written. I get stuck with one and then I write new bits for one of the others just so that I am writing everyday and not feeling stuck. At this point, only 1 story is complete but needs editing and I just got another potentially great story idea this past weekend. I’m beginning to feel that I’m diverging from the stories because I can’t finish writing my them anymore. HELP! Thanks.

The feeling of being overwhelmed or stunted by too many ideas has a name. Coined by Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant in her article 9 Ways to Overcome Too Many Ideas Syndrome, this ailment is called you guessed it Too Many Ideas Syndrome, or TMIS.

Knowing that other writers suffer as you do may actually help. You are not alone. But, just in case that doesn’t take the edge off, we think we may have some useful tips for you.

  1. Sit down and assess your situation. Make a list of all your current writing projects, including editing, critiquing, and new ideas. If you like, you can include things like writing rants, articles, or rp paras on Tumblr or other online communities to which you may belong. Every instance of a project that requires you to commit your time to writing on it should make the list. Try not to place values on each of the items on your list by numbering or rating them. Actually seeing the complete list may be daunting, but at least you now know exactly where you stand. Once you’ve got your complete list, move on to the next tip.
  2. Make a map. Try making a visual or written “map” of what is left to do on each item. Don’t spend too much time here, just make signposts like, “finish second half” or “edit spelling/grammar”. You’ll know the kind of work involved for each signpost; you can even have more than one signpost for each item. Get it all out there!
  3. Don’t kid yourself. If you’ve written an item on your list that you are loathe to finish, cross it off and add it to another list of things on your back burner. If it’s on your Back Burner list, don’t work on it! That project needs a cooling off period, or else it needs to be scrapped altogether. Remember, you made a complete list then moved that project to the Back Burner. You chose to put it there for a reason, but there’s nothing keeping you from moving it back once you’ve finished the projects on the main list.
  4. Cut them up. Look at each of the writing projects left on your main list. Because you’ve written or drawn out everything you’ve left to do on them, it should be relatively simple to cut each project into several smaller tasks. Instead of writing a book, write a chapter. Instead of editing a short story, edit a page. Cut your projects into pieces that can be finished in a week or less.
  5. Start. Look over your list of smaller tasks. Start with the smaller task that you are least excited about when you skim down your list. Once it’s done, reward yourself by taking on the smaller task you were most excited about, then tackle another smaller task you’re not as excited about, then move on to the next smaller task that you’re excited about, and so on. You can hop around the writing projects if you like. Do not move on from a smaller task until it’s complete. Add new ideas to your main list or your Back Burner list as you go, but resist the urge to start on a new idea while you’re in the middle of a smaller task.
  6. Finish. Once you’ve completed all the smaller tasks for a writing project on your list, celebrate! No, actually celebrate. Go see a movie or hang out with friends. Make a post on your blog about it (tag us so we can read it). Do something to reward yourself for completing a writing project before continuing on to a new smaller task.

Other things you can do:

  1. Accountability. Seek out a friend or visit our collaborator page and explain that you have TMIS. Ask to set up a system to keep each other honest and focused. Set up deadlines for your smaller task with them and let them know as you complete your smaller tasks. Be sure to somehow include this friend or collaborator in your celebration of a completed writing project.
  2. One thing at a time. Sometimes, you just have to shut out all other projects and work on one at a time. Soldier through it. Most writers prefer to have many pots on the stove, but this may not work for you. Recognize that you are overwhelmed and set aside every other project until one is totally done.
  3. Roll dice. If you can’t make a decision about what to work on, leave it up to chance. Look at your list of projects and assign each to a side of a die. Throw that die into the air, let it land, then ignore it. You should work on whatever project corresponded to the number on the die you were secretly hoping for. If you weren’t hoping for a number (yes you were), then go with the whatever project fate chose for you. 
  4. Let a friend or stranger choose for you. Talk to someone that is relatively unfamiliar with your writing projects and give them a brief rundown of your list. Let that person choose which project you should pursue.

Regardless of how you decide to handle your TMIS, we hope that you’ll recognize that this is an awesome problem to have. With all of these ideas milling around in your head, you’re sure to produce some great work! Just take it slow, keep writing, and everything will be okay.

Further Reading:

Thank you for your question!

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