Recently, on the advice of a close friend and against all common sense, I downloaded a popular social media app. It’s the kind of app that everyone seems to use, and which has no concrete purpose besides sharing jokes and having fun. Despite knowing better and against all my reservations, I downloaded it.
I usually try to avoid distractions like this. It is the type of thing that can eat up hours in a day and send all your thoughts scattering. All your carefully laid plans for how the day will go and what you will accomplish are gone. You open the app for two minutes here, five minutes there, and all of a sudden you have lost all your free time and ability to focus.
It often happens to me (and maybe you, too), that whenever you start working on a big writing project, you quickly get a new idea, or even ten new ideas. You may spend weeks or months planning for your big project, and then as soon as you sit down, crack your knuckles, and line yourself up with the keyboard, and amazing thing happens–
A new idea comes!
I love new ideas. They are exciting things, bright and shining and beautiful. They are buckets filled with glitter, bright doorways filled with promise. They are sparks that are ready to catch fire. And just like a fire, they can be dangerous.
New ideas can be distracting. When I get a new idea, I am often led astray from my original idea. I may have sat down ready and willing to work on an important scene in my novel, but all of a sudden this amazing idea for a short story or fanfic pops into my brain, and I think, I can just spend a few minutes to work on this, can’t I? And before I know it, hours have gone by and sun is setting and I have accomplished almost nothing that I have set out to do.
These days, it seems like the distractions are everywhere. From the social media apps that fill our lives with news and opinions, to the flood of breaking news from all parts of the world, to the constantly changing rules and expectations that are just part of life in twenty-twenty. The world is all distractions, and I know that my mind has been reflecting that recently.
I start out working on one project, and quickly get ideas for two more. I work on a short story, but suddenly dream up the premise for a novel. I work on original fiction for a week, and suddenly find that fanfiction catches my attention. This is relatively normal for me and the way my mind works, but in the past few months I’ve found that my brain’s natural tendencies have been turned up by 200%. Everything is more intense, and much more distracting. I think this is my mind’s way of reflecting the current situation in the world. My tarot reader says that from what she has heard from other creatives, this is a common problem right now. It’s okay to feel distracted, unsure, and pulled in many directions. It is what’s in the cards for many of us right now. The world has been turned upside down, and we have to be willing to turn ourselves around with it.
These days, when the bright, shiny, and new ideas come to me, I don’t run from them. I jot them down and tease them out, spending a short amount of time testing them to see if they are worth pursuing. I go back to my original work, my original goal, and I get back to work. I let the new ideas simmer. In a day or two, if they are still bright and shiny to me, I will work on them longer. Give them more of my attention. Some ideas lose their shine and I throw them out. Others grow into great, grand projects that I spend more time outlining. And others are just right — the kinds of side projects that take up a few hours and no more. Those ideas bring me joy because they are easily finished and exciting from beginning to end. I use them as a break from my bigger projects, and then I get back to it.
Some new ideas burn fast and bright, and they are just the kind of distraction I need.