When do writers stop bouncing in their projects?

I was so touched by this post on “Bouncing About” by Jodie Louise Brown that I wrote a long comment on her blog that I thought I’d share here with some more thoughts. In an act of remarkable self-awareness, Brown questions why she bounces around writing projects and concludes it’s her youth. I don’t think that’s entirely so.

I’m 40 and still bouncing between projects. Part of that is just the restlessness of a creative mind. But sure, it’s probably harder in your youth. More likely, the bouncing around doesn’t change, you just develop your creative habits to complete projects. I recently posted the Writing Commandments of Henry Miller including “Work on one thing at a time until finished.” Damn, that’s hard to do.

One thing that helped me so much writing my second novel is that I decided any idea I had during the writing would go into the novel. Too many times, I have a character or scenario that I think should be its own story. During that project, I decided, no, it all goes in the book. I had an outline for the story so I knew where to go. And every idea or event in my life during the writing went in the book. Including a horrible visit to the doctor.

One thing that worries young writers and artists is that they’re afraid they’ll run out of ideas so they don’t want to squander them. It’s smart in a way but what you do learn with age is that ideas beget other ideas. The best way to create more ideas is to execute your ideas.

This is why NaNoWriMo is such a wonderful idea. If you take a month and write a novel, it will prove to you that you can be continue being creative after you finish a huge creative endeavor. That’s a confidence you can’t really learn in school.

If you’re afraid your creative ideas are the only ones you’ll have or the best ones you’ll ever have, you’re going to be more precious with them. That’s why the advice to “kill your darlings” is so apt. You have to stop being precious in order to finish work. And, though it’s somewhat counter-intuitive, you have to publish (or at least finish) projects to stop the bouncing around. The more you finish, the more you begin.