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Thread: Brainstorming as procrastination

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW srgalactica's Avatar
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    Brainstorming as procrastination

    I'm lucky enough to have a significant other who also writes and who is happy to bounce ideas around with me. I'm currently working on a fantasy trilogy with the first two books written. Unfortunately, I wrote those two books years ago and a lot has changed, so they are being re-written.

    Now I find myself almost obsessively brainstorming and trying to suss out plot holes and fix them before I commit more words to paper. This has become, I think, a procrastination method for me. A means of letting myself feel like I'm working on the novels when really I'm not.

    When I do sit down to write, I feel overwhelmed by the scope of the WIP and while I try to let myself just write and tie up the inner critic and inner editor and leave them in some dark basement, I still find myself critical and hating every word I write.


    Anyone else experience this or have advice to overcome it?



  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW SianaBlackwood's Avatar
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    Option 1: set yourself a time limit - for example, 15 minutes of brainstorming and after that you have to start writing.

    Option 2: take a week to go through the whole book and make yourself an 'outline' of all the changes you want to make. After the end of the week, your only task is to write the story.

    I'm more or less doing option 2 at the moment, except that I gave myself two months to do all the planning, worldbuilding and story analysis I wanted. I'm almost at the end of that - come March 1st, I start writing again and then the only thing that stops me before May 31st will be if I get to the end of the story faster than I expect.
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  3. #3
    rolling up her sleeves sarawrites's Avatar
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    I'll be watching this thread for advice as I'm deeply brainstorming right now and almost afraid to write at this point. Bad I know.

    I think part of it is making the brainstorming work for you. Like SianaBlackwood said, set yourself a time limit. And try to make the brainstorming helpful. Give yourself an "assignment" to think about instead of just lackadaisically thinking about your story. It could be something like "Figure out my MC's motivation in this scene" so that when you do go to the page, you'll know what you're doing and can hit the ground running.

    Personally, I'm in pre-planning, so I'm convincing myself that it's to make the writing easier. Sort of. :-D
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  4. #4
    Following my North Star L. Y.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srgalactica View Post
    Anyone else experience this or have advice to overcome it?
    Write something else. If your overwhelmed by editing, maybe it's time to put the WIP away for a bit and start something new. Sometimes a little time off helps provide a different perspective.

    Good luck!
    Write. Edit. Rinse, repeat.

    Edit with your head, write with your heart.


  5. #5
    creative genie katci13's Avatar
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    Stop thinking so much. Just write. Really.
    If the idea is so big that you can't concentrate, that's a sign something is wrong. Hate to say it, but it's true. I understand, I'm ocd, I've spent hours lost in my head just sitting on the couch doing squat.

    Sometimes holes will get worked out as you're moving through the plot. Sometimes they'll work themselves out while you're working on something else. Personally, when this happens to me and I find myself rewriting my outline for the 5th time, I move on to something else. You're a writer. You have other ideas. Go play with them for a while.

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  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I am forever guilty of doing this. Part of the problem, I think (and this may be true for you too), is that the brainstorming DOES produce useful information (outlines, etc) and so it makes it easier to justify continuing to do it. It keeps you engaged with your story even if you aren't writing, and the story feels like it grows and takes shape as you brainstorm.

    The problem is...well, nothing is actually being written.

    I am currently going through this right now. I have the time to write, and yet I find myself getting distracted. I think it is because, when I think of the story, I can see it in my head but it feels overwhelming to go back and insert the chapters and ideas I know I missed the first time around. So...I do character sheets, and outlines, and other stuff that is not actually writing.

    What I've decided to do is draw a line in the sand on the brainstorming. I'm giving myself a few more days to finish any of the background information I want and then setting a daily word count requirement until I get my "groove" back. It works for me during NaNoWriMo every year, so there's no reason not to give it a shot for regular writing as well. Maybe this will work for you too (i.e. not stopping until you've hit 1k, or 2k, or whatever words per day).

    Good luck!
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  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Oh, also: when you write, just try to do it without thinking too much. Perfection is what edits are for later
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  8. #8
    figuring it all out
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    I'd try to just write, get in a zone and let the words fly and take you where they will without fear of typos or other problems.
    I also think its important to find a brainless activity, be it video games or jogging or reading...whatever will occupy your mind and take it any from your project for a while. This should lower the background noise in your brain, allowing you to think more clearly when you start again. Resting your brain can be just as important as writing.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I'd definitely agree that sometimes it's best just to write. Brainstorming and bouncing ideas can be really useful, but it can go on for too long and create more complications than it resolves. Grab and idea and go for it. Let the writing work itself out.

    If that doesn't work, then taking a proper break away from your thoughts about writing is a good way to go.

    Best of luck with it.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW
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    Perhaps the hazard of verbal or internal brainstorming is that it's so easy to wander off into a labyrinth of possibilities, complications, new issues, on and on.

    Maybe it's better to make a written note about the overall plot line, and list challenges or issues that need to be buttoned up. Take a breath, tangle with them one at a time, but write down a specific solution, then move on to the next. No doodling! This evolves into a map to keep you on track.

    Meantime, go one-on-one with the keyboard. Sit down, get the scene into your mind and just go. No fear. Utterly free. Write until you're completely spent (or at least until someone brings cookies). Then stand back and pat yourself on the back.

    Now do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next. Simply get into the habit of writing because it's so much fun to do.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin AngelWriter42's Avatar
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    I am in the same place as you are and all these posts are helping me out. I like to remember what Anne Lamott said in "Bird By Bird" about just focusing on what you can fit inside a 1" x 1" square. It's so overwhelming to come from that frazzled state of brainstorming which is wonderful for the creative process but needs to come down to earth and get rooted in action. Maybe press your forehead to the ground, take a deep breath and then type, type, type until you've written something.
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  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Try writing and brainstorming. Even if you haven't completed your outline, start writing the story.

    You might find that they synergize quite well. You will definitely have to re-write part of your first draft, but that's typical of a first draft.

    Think of it this way. There are one of two eventualities that you're going to end up with:

    1) You make massive changes to the plot and can't use giant swathes of what you wrote.

    2) You make minor changes and you have to adjust small scenes, make some re-arrangements and add bits in.

    Although #1 sounds catastrophic, you'll still have had time to write the character a bit, get a feel for them and how they act/react. You'll probably even have written some dialogue you really like for them that you can still use. Plus you were practicing your writing.

    Number 2 means you're that much closer to a completed first draft, and that's great! Brainstorming and writing don't have to be mutually exclusive.

    If neither of those sounds appealing to you though, start writing short stories. Set some time aside for brainstorming for your main piece of work, and then write something new on the side.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    I'm struggling with "brainstorming as procrastination," too, so these tips are all helpful. I love the idea of setting a time period for "scheduled brainstorming" to give it some structure and purpose.

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