‘I Got A Head Full Of Ideas That Are Driving Me Insane’; Tips For Dealing With A Busy Mind

I’ve always loved this line from Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’. I first heard it on a best of Bob Dylan compilation tape I bought when I was 12 years old. Yes, I was a strange kid, obsessed with words, old music, and writing. I used to scrawl lyrics and random thoughts over my bedroom walls and floorboards. And at the time I discovered Bob Dylan’s lyrical genius, I was also discovering how addictive it was to put words together. Little poems. Songs. Stories that grew into novels. I’d get one idea and become obsessed by it, only to have another equally exciting one show up on its heels, demanding my attention.

I remember the feeling of having too much inside my head. And having no escape from it, no way to turn it off or quieten it. I was always thinking about something. I disliked small talk and found it hard to concentrate on people when they spoke to me.

These days, it’s even worse. Just like when I was a kid, I have these people in my head. These made up people who feel so unbelievably real and who all have desperate stories to tell, and who all want their turn NOW!

So how do you cope when your mind gets this noisy? How do you focus on what is important and not end up burning out or giving up? I wouldn’t say I’ve fully figured this out yet, but here are a few tips for anyone who has a head full of ideas problem;

  • Count yourself lucky. Yes, I know it can feel like a burden and a curse. If only just some of these people would shut up and go away, you could concentrate fully on the task at hand. But it pays to remember having too many ideas is actually pretty cool. You’re never going to run out of material. You have decades worth of books and sequels lining up to be penned. That’s lucky and that’s exciting.
  • List your projects. I did this about a year ago. I have a to-be-read list and I have a to-be-written list. I’m a list person and there is nothing more satisfying than putting a tick in a box. So make a list of all the ideas for books you have and then enjoy that feeling when you get to tick them off. Also, this way you won’t forget any of the ideas!
  • Multi-tasking is your friend and ally. If you are taking the indie route, you’re going to need those multi-tasking skills in an abundance, so this is another reason to be happy that your mind is so busy. If you can juggle all of those projects and ideas without losing it, then you will probably do pretty well as an indie writer, juggling writing with building an author platform, promoting and so on.
  • Give yourself a day off each week. I didn’t always do this. I didn’t feel like I could. How was I ever going to get all these books written if I slacked off at any point? But then my kids kept giving me sad eyes and saying they missed cuddling up on the sofa with me. So I take every Saturday off. Completely. I don’t turn the laptop on. I sit downstairs with them and watch whatever they want to watch and take a deep breath. It’s my reward for all the hard work in the week.
  • Make sure it’s still fun. I think serious writers, or at least those who are serious about actually selling their books, should treat writing like a job. I always wanted writing to be my job, and now it sort of is, although obviously, I have to do other things to earn the real money! Viewing it as a job doesn’t have to take the fun out of it.On the contrary, writing should be a fun job. The best job in the world, in fact. So keep an eye on the fun factor. You might be churning out novel after novel and hitting all of your word count targets, but are you still having fun?
  • Feel free to slack off a bit every now and again. I’m doing this at the moment. Or at least it feels like it to me. I’m going over the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels I started a while back which is about half written. I’m editing a bit but I’m not doing any actual writing yet. I have two books with beta readers, so you know, can’t do much there right now. I’m gearing up for the release of The Tree Of Rebels, but until the artwork and formatting is done, I can’t set a release date and put the plan into action, so that’s all kind of relaxed right now too. It’s nice. I know things are going to get hectic again really soon, so I am enjoying the peace. I’ve been watching TV! Unheard of!
  • Remind yourself that one day you will have more time…I’m a mum of four kids and I’m also a dog walker and run writing groups and workshops. My youngest child is almost three, so hasn’t started pre-school yet. He’s 24/7. My older kids are fantastic but let me just say this to all you new parents out there, it doesn’t get any easier. It gets harder. Sorry, but it does! Anyway, I have days when I feel frustrated that I didn’t get much done, but then I remind myself that one day the kids will all be grown up. They’ll be gone one day. I’m not looking forward to that, by the way, but wow, I will certainly know how to keep myself busy when the time comes! So for now, I remind myself to be patient. These are busy days and I’m torn in many directions, but it won’t be this way forever.
  • Write weekly lists to help you stay calm. I would be lost without my weekly to-do list. I sit down every Sunday night and write down the things I would like to achieve in the coming week. There will be things I need to do, such as writing this blog or putting together the monthly newsletter, and things I aim to get done, such as more editing, research or whatever comes up. Basically, I sit down each night and decide which things on the list are the most pressing. I usually split my time in half between promotional things, and actual writing or editing.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. I could write into the night and not stop. I used to do that before I had kids. I’m more sensible now, because I know I have to get up early and look after them all, but also because I’m kinder to myself. My mind needs a break. I turn everything off around ten pm and climb into bed with a book. Reading helps me calm down and tune out from my own mind. You can guarantee the ideas will start up again once I turn out the light, but I quite enjoy this if I am honest. I always fall asleep playing mini movies in my head, where various characters move about and talk and basically perform the book for me.
  • Have other hobbies and passions. I think this is vital. Obviously, I have the kids, and I expect most writers will have family commitments of some sort, as well as a day job. But I think having other passions in your life can really help you switch off from the writing, and give your hectic mind a break. I love gardening and being with my animals. I can easily lose a few hours just weeding, planting and digging. I love reading and will happily pick up a book at any time of the day, including whilst making the dinner. I’m pretty addicted to music and will waste away an hour or two on YouTube if I ever get the chance! Make sure writing is not your only obsession.
  • And finally, remind yourself that it will all get done one day. One word at a time, one day at a time, one book at a time. You will work your way through that list of projects. I’m sure more ideas will arrive when you really don’t want them to, but consider it a privilege and just keep going as calmly as you can!

Now I just need to keep reminding myself to do all of the above and I might just survive!

Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to know how you cope with having too many ideas!

 

 

 

My 2016 Writing Goals Vs The Reality

Towards the end of 2015 I listed my writing goals for 2016 on this blog. I didn’t really expect to achieve them all, but at the same time, they did feel achievable! I also listed them as a way to kick myself up the backside and keep track of what I wanted to get done this year. So as we draw to the end of 2016, (oh my God how fast did this year go??) how many did I manage?

  1. Finish the first draft of Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature (nearly there!!)

Yay! I did this one! This book nearly ready for release, but I’ve been waiting for some final feedback from a trusted beta reader and working on the first draft of A Song For Bill Robinson. Once this is done, I will be rushing back to dear Elliot to give his story a final going over or two and then deciding on a release date! (Plus I need to think about front covers and so on!)

2.Whilst letting that first draft breathe, do the final rewrite/edit of The Tree Of Rebels and submit to agents and publishers. I want to try the traditional route with this book, as I think it is a worth a go every now and then!

Well, as you may know, TheTree Of Rebels is still not ready despite being now two years in the making. A while ago I decided it needed another rewrite and possibly some further storylines introduced. But it has to wait until Elliot Pie is released before I get back to it, so this one is still not done. It is much improved though and I’m glad I’ve been patient with it.

3.Whilst waiting for responses, dive into second draft of Elliot Pie, which also means developing a Pinterest storyboard for it.

Yep, as mentioned above, second, third, fourth and so on drafts have happened for Elliot Pie, and I have started a Pinterest board for it too. Cool, can tick that one off!

4.If no success with trad publishing, then release The Tree of Rebels with my indie publisher,with my detailed promo plan in place!!

Well that indie publisher went out of business in February 2016 and I then published with Amazon for a while and am now with Pronoun. That threw a spanner into the works for a few months and set everything back a bit, so the detailed promo plan for The Tree Of Rebels will have to wait a bit longer to be set into motion!

5.Have a real life/in the flesh book launch in my local library (eek scary!)

Well, obviously as neither novel was ready for 2016 this goal was not achievable. However, I have recently made contact with my local library in a bid to foster links with them for this sort of thing. I’m holding a workshop there in March and will be talking to them about lots of other ideas too, so this goal is definitely one for 2017. I hope!

6.Have an online launch/promo etc (see point 4)

Again, neither novel was launched so couldn’t do an online launch either, but very much looking forward to this in 2017!

7.Finish putting together another short story collection, which will be partly shorts related to my novels, other shorts, and partly previous blog posts and musings

Aha! One I did achieve! I released Bird People in May 2016 and I’m really pleased with how it turned out

8.Plan a local author event! This will be under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group banner, and will involve getting other local authors together for a meet/greet/signing and workshop extravaganza, all designed to put readers in touch with writers,, and spread the word locally about our books.

Yay, well sort of. I have a workshop booked for March which will be the first adult one I’ve put on, by myself, under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business. I did also take part in a Writers Day Event in October with Dorset Writers Network which was a brilliant opportunity for spreading the word and making connections. My workshop is about building an author platform and part of it will be unveiling my idea for a pop-up book shop to put on at any future events, the library and so on.

9.Enter competitions and submit to awards!!

I have entered two or three competitions this year I think? Always worth a go. Not submitted to any awards, though, which is worth looking into I think for 2017

10.Plot/plan the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels and add teaser chapters onto end of first book

Done. Most of the sequel is written or planned, but I did go off the idea and it fizzled out. When I do finally go over The Tree of Rebels again I will be deciding if I want to do the sequel or not, or just leave thinsg open incase I do another day.

11.Start the sequel to The Mess Of Me (if I finish Elliot Pie, or when I am having a breather between drafts)

Didn’t get time for this, as a lot of time was spent republishing books this year, and rewriting Elliot Pie and Tree Of Rebels, then a few months ago an old story started to plague me and turned into my current work-in-progress A Song For Bill Robinson. The sequel to The Mess Of Me is planned and half-written and will happen, one day, though!

12.Start writing the screenplay to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, which involves writing in extra scenes between the two books, so as to make a TV series. Well, why not dream big??

I started this! I also wrote a later episode which I intended to enter in a competition but I missed the deadline! Fully intend to keep working on this in 2017 as it was a whole lot of fun!

Results; seven out of twelve, not too bad!! I think writing this list at the start of 2016 was hugely helpful to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to tick them all off, but they were all things I desperately wanted to achieve, so it made sense to me to list them like this so I’d have something to spur me on. I am going to write a new list for 2017 writing goals which will be next week’s blog post!

How about you? Do you write lists or make plans? What do you hope to achieve in 2017? Did 2016 go as planned or did you have things go wrong or veer in other directions, like I did? Please feel free to comment and share!