Shiny New Idea Syndrome (noun): A disease or affliction in which a writer is unable to focus on their current book or short story without being distracted by another project. Common symptoms of Shiny New Idea Syndrome include: inability to focus, sleeplessness, disorganization, irritability, indecision, irrational behavior, and never finishing a book.
A gift as much as a curse, shiny new idea syndrome is a common illness throughout the writing community. If you suffer from this affliction, you can count yourself lucky in some respects. There are great writers who sit awake at night praying for a good idea, whereas you’re sitting on your living room floor drowning in piles of papers filled with ideas.
Like a child with a new toy, your attention span can be fickle, making it hard to get anything done.
Why you shouldn’t start that new idea
There’s always going to be a new idea.
If you’re one of those creative souls who is like a living, breathing idea factory, there’s never going to be an end. It may feel right to pick up that new idea that you’re dying to work on, but you’ll lose steam as soon as the next one comes along and you’ll never follow through with any project unless you can find a cure for yourself.
How to get clean
1. Have self control
Shiny New Idea Syndrome is a bit like an addiction. You’ll think of an idea and you’ll tell yourself- Well, maybe just one scene. While it’s fresh in my mind. The next thing you know, you’re up until 4:00 A.M. looking up knife wounds and conspiracy theories on google in a body fueled by Skittles and Red Bull.
You need to have some serious discipline to break this cycle. Make this your mantra: I have to finish this book before I start another. No exceptions. Not only will that help you stay on task, but the excitement you have for your next project will motivate you to finish your current one sooner.
2. Find one specific place to store new ideas.
Whether it’s an app on your phone or a notebook you carry everywhere, being organized will help you feel less overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in new ideas when they’re on so many different platforms. Keeping ideas organized will allow you to keep your head above water, knowing they’re right there when you need them.
It’s also helpful to break ideas into categories. Organize your ideas bythose most fleshed-out to those that need developed to ideas that are simply passing musings or lines. Use the smaller ideas as brainstorming tools if you’re stuck on your current project.
3. Set goals & hold yourself accountable.
When it comes to combating this addiction, you need to set distinct goals stay on track. Give yourself two weeks per chapter. Put it in your calendar. Efficient scheduling forces you to remain focused on the project at hand instead of getting distracted.
Some people don’t have enough willpower to do this on their own. If that’s you, don’t feel bad. After all, most of us have already abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions, so we have no room to talk.
If that’s the case, it may be helpful to bring in a person to hold you accountable. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or even an editor, knowing someone else is invested in your project will keep you on task. Just like an addiction, if you can’t get better on your own there’s always the intervention approach.