Everyone gets ideas, it’s a fact.
Everyone gets persistent ideas as well.
You know the ones, the ones with cattle prods. With Taser in hand.
Sometimes the cattle prods are red-hot at the ends, as they want to brand you with themselves.
But it’s an idea that you can’t let go of, even as it pokes and prods at you, wanting your attention, wanting you to do something about it, wanting you to –hey, why haven’t you dropped everything yet? What’s up with that? This idea is so much more interesting than what you’re doing now, or what you need to do later, that it’s amazing you haven’t imploded from the need to move onto this amazing idea yet.
What is wrong with you?
The idea will poke and prod until you do something about it, it will continuously remind you that you have a duty to it every time you stop for a moment, let your mind wander…
Why haven’t you done anything about this idea yet?
Are you stupid?
But, because you have something that NEEDS to get done, that idea will have to wait.
It has to, because it came to you not when you had time, but when you were reading something, or perhaps doing something important, or getting ready to go to bed after working fo the entire day and the idea finally catches up to you…
And then doesn’t let go.
These ideas are funny like that
But, no matter what you’re doing, until you have done something about this idea–no matter what, exactly it is an idea about–you will be poked, prodded, sometimes bashed over the head, so that you are either mildly distracted from what you need to do, or else you are blinking and shaking your head from disorientation from this new abusive relationship you have with this part of your psyche, asking “pardon?” and hoping no one will notice you weren’t paying the least bit attention to this thing that NEEDS your attention
Of course, this idea you have also NEEDS your attention, doesn’t it?
Because you know that it’s an idea that needs to be explored, it may even be something that you will eventually actually NEED to get to, and you don’t want to lose this at-the-moment unwanted passion and unwilling enthusiasm, that what’s grabbing your attention will not be done nearly as well if you don’t get to it while you’re THIS interested.
And there is this fearful need to get it done, because there are a few things that run through your mind, and most of them are what-if’s
What if you just finish what you’re doing, and come back to it? Will that work?
What if I forget this amazing idea? (Note: his happens a lot right before you’re going to bed)
What if after I’m done this important thing, I’ve lost the enthusiasm? Then it won’t be nearly as good…
All these things will run through your mind at one point or another, and more, and it adds fuel to the fire of any anxiety you’ve already experienced thus far.
With me it’s usually story ideas, and I end up telling Lexy a lot of them (she does this in kind, though lately it’s been for her amazing short stories), and one term for these ideas you might have heard about is that you’ve gotten a ‘Plot Bunny’
It’s rather clever since the ideas are usually little fuzzy things bouncing around in your mind, sometimes breeding with other bunnies in the vast landscape of your imagination, and creating new, sometimes more developed plot bunnies.
This is usually what I imagine a plot bunny would be like:
Cue yeah? And writer cat is good for me too, since a great deal of what happens is that I get so focused on one idea, and sometimes get distracted, or focus on a different plot bunny and ignore the others I’ve already started working on. It’s a bit like a cat who’s really interested in the game you’ve been playing, but then between one swipe and the next the claws are out and they’re entirely disinterested in that bit of string that’s held their attention so long.
But these ideas, these plot bunnies that kick and shout and generally screw with your mind until they die or you give up, it’s like something went horribly wrong.
Possibly in a way that can be salvaged, but it’s like adding a buzz saw and ninja stars to a plot bunny.
No, wait. It’s like the plot bunnies have gone rabid.
They’re going crazy in your mind, frothing at the mouth, and you can’t not pay attention to that, can you?
It seems like it could be cute or scary or something from Monty Python, like something that could be in your dreams or nightmares, and in any case something difficult to put aside.
I feel like I experience this quite a lot, so here’s some things that at least help. It’s not a lot, but it means that these plot bunnies can sometimes be saved, rather than end up being put down like Ol’ Yeller.
I write things down.
I have probably a dozen or so word documents with a few ideas for stories written down inside of them, little bits and things that seem brilliant and are flashing and shrieking in my ear as something brilliant (or heartbreaking, there are quite a few plot bunnies that are on a mission to have me bawling my eyes out), so I write them down. If I can spare some time to write out a few paragraphs (even if they aren’t coherent, or in a proper story-telling kind of format), I’ll do that and just write out the other scenes around it… Mind you, if you do this you must have patience, because you may or may not be the kind of person who wants to post something immediately, or get to an idea quickly, but more times than not it’s best to write out what needs writing rather than jumping to this amazing scene that’s only amazing because YOU (the author) know all the back story and linking things for it.
I experienced this with my Torchwood story, when I jumped ahead to a part of the story I already knew would be happening, and had at least a chapter finished… only I knew I had at least another scene to write (at the VERY least, and that would be skimping on important detail), so the few reviews I got complaining about me not updating quick enough (which is equally flattering and annoying, by the way), or people asking if I’ve abandoned the story (NO. Each chapter is at least 10k, and I write ALL of the next chapter, don’t you DARE give up on me you weak-willed readers! Have courage to click the ‘subscribe to story’ button!), can get really frustrating, and I know none of them believe me when I say that I wrote ahead. That I’m not done THIS chapter because I was busy working on the next.
The Love-Hate relationship to writing fanfiction…
Another thing I do is talk about it.
Lexy is a fantastic sounding board. I personally hate calling someone a ‘sounding board’, sounds quite a bit like I’m just using someone, but it’s true.
I can talk to her about stories and plot ideas I’ve had bouncing in my head, and being able to talk about my ideas aloud sometimes help me solidify one idea or another. Sometimes I can get away with just talking aloud, but hearing feedback and seeing Lexy’s expressions and opinions really helps.
Most computers have some sort of webcam as well, and I’ve tried filming myself talking about a story idea to even see my own expressions, because watching it helps me figure out where I’m unsure. You don’t realize how much you express when you’re talking until you’re watching it.
This also helps out when you’re working on a story/idea already, and helps you get new perspectives. Dwelling on a story long enough sometimes dulls the story for you, yourself, as the author. It’s like the 20th time you’ve seen a movie, as you’ve already looked over all the hidden meanings, you know all the back stories, there are no more surprises, no more twists, and you think way too ahead.
So yeah, talking. It works.
It also forces you from your writing cave
And the last thing…
Well, It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing, so it isn’t something I KNOW works. I know there’s a possibility it may work though.
You could make a forum and adopt out your plot Bunnies.
I have a lot of ideas rumbling about in my head, and before I start writing a story I’m usually feeling it out for months before I start seriously writing it, so some plot bunnies get neglected.
So why not give out prompts? You could do it with one word prompts, and their definitions, or you could write out a small summary for your plot bunny, you could post a paragraph that you’ve written down, you could give bits and pieces and scenarios from plot bunnies and see where others take them.
If you make a request for someone to link their project back to you, then you can even read it, and you know that one quote…
If you don’t, it goes something like
“If there’s a story you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, get to writing it”
Something like that. It’s what got me into regularly writing my own things.
But back to turning part of your imagination into a sort of foster home for Plot Bunnies (Rabid or otherwise, and remember that you can always pick them back up again later when you have the time and inclination)… well, you really don’t have to, but it’s something to consider.
What use are YOU getting out of them, hmm? What if you have an idea, a newborn Plot Bunny, but don’t have any plans on actually writing it? What if you just enjoy the idea hopping around your head? Well, you could foster it out and then you could READ the story someone else makes out of it.
You could hate it, you could love it… but it’s maybe gotten someone else to start writing, so that’s good 🙂
These tips work pretty well for other kinds of ideas, too, I’d imagine. An idea for a drawing you don’t have time for? Doodle it. Write down colours, just do a thumbnail drawing and come back to it. Have an idea for a poem? Keep sticky notes with you, or a note pad, and write it down as it comes. Edits are for later, and you might not have the rhythm for it later. Or what about a sculpture, or a carving, or something else that would be three-dimensional? Draw it out. A rough sketch to get the idea out, jot down the specifics, things not obvious in the drawing.
These ideas are rabid in your thoughts because they’re GOOD ideas. They may need refining, some other details figured out, but they’re distracting you because you can do something with this.
The Plot Bunnies and Business Bunnies and Doodle Rabbits and other furry creature ideas DON’T have to be a problem. Even if you’re in a rush, taking a half-hour break to jot down some notes can only help, since it means you won’t be (as) distracted when you go back to work.
How do YOU deal with your Rabid Plot Bunnies?
This is more of a nightmarish thing for me, honestly…