In this episode, learn about my love of Halloween and how to combat one of the most terrifying monster writers face, sometimes daily! Prepare to be frightened! Muahahaha!
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Hey, Toucan. Happy Halloween! *wolf howl* And welcome to episode four of the podcast. As you’re listening to this, I am in gorgeous Mexico City for Dia de los Muertos. Well, not for that specifically. We actually planned the trip to see the Formula One race this weekend. It just so happened to also coincide with Dia de los Muertos.
If you don’t know what Dia de los Muertos is, according to History.com, It is “a Mexican holiday in which families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink, and celebration.”
I love October. I just love it. It’s probably my favorite month with November being a close second, or maybe tying for first because of feasting season.
That’s, you know, November, Thanksgiving. It’s the start of the big feasting season here in the U in the United States. October though is a creepy month. I get extra jumpy. I write horror, so my overactive imagination is primed and ready for some jump scares, even if they are self-imposed or from seeing a weird shadow or nothing at all.
Like sometimes I will be walking or hiking my beloved pittie mix, Kira, and out of the very far corner of my peripheral vision, I’ll see a black shape and I’ll gasp and whip around what is that? And it’s like just a dark shadow among some trees or nothing at all. Woo.
Also, I love costumes. In the before times at work, I was sort of the queen of Halloween.
Oh, that rhymes really nicely. I won costume contests year over year, only once being beat out by my coworker Jill, who in her maybe fifties, I think, dressed as a retired Hooter’s girl, saggy support hose, hairnet, and all. And let me tell you, she absolutely deserved the trophy that year without a doubt.
So what happened was year after year I strived to outdo myself the year before.
I never recycled costumes. I always had something new and amazing. Plus, I’m an amateur seamstress, so I’d whip out my little sewing machine and pour my blood, sweat, and tears into my costumes. So what do you think happened aside from, you know, creating these amazing costumes I mean?
I ended up burning out.
Halloween was no longer fun for me. It was stressful. I would wake up in the middle of the night in January thinking about what I was gonna be for Halloween months later. Crazy, right?
So what does this have to do with this episode’s topic? Well, Halloween and creating costumes became the equivalent of Old Musty, and you will learn what Old Musty is soon.
Basically, when we are in the midst of our current work in progress, the magic of that story tends to ebb and flow with peaks and troughs. Sometimes when we’re at a low point, the magicalness of our work in progress, eh, it kind of stagnates, right? And we’re more prone to being lured and distracted by…
It comes out of seemingly nowhere.
It pulls your attention away from your current manuscript.
It promises to be more exciting and more fun than anything you’ve ever written before.
*music crescendoes* (you really should listen to this part, it’s great)
It’s a shiny new idea!!!
You my friend, are a creative person. You likely have a bank of ideas just brimming with the energy of wanting to be written, not to mention how many ideas just come flying at you on a daily basis. Dreams, news headlines. Snippets of dialogue, random thoughts. The muse, whispering. Sweet Nothings into your ear.
Or you know, dark nasties if you write that kind of thing.
The susurration of water running over you in the shower is enough to bring on a slew of ideas.
Shiny new idea syndrome arises when a new idea steals your attention because, “holy cow, this is a full fledged story that just presented itself to me!”
Perhaps the story idea is so attractive. You just cannot wait to finish the manuscript you’ve been working on for the past three, um, 12 years. So you don’t, and that manuscript by the way. Is Old Musty. So your little bird brain flits off with this new idea. Your current manuscript, Old Musty, withers and rots.
It throws jealous, looks at you and your new idea. You swear you’ll come back to that Old Musty thing in the corner and you probably will, but there is a chance that you won’t. As a new writer, you are free my friend, to explore all the ideas that come your way. But at some point, if you want to be serious, you must finish something.
You must take your writing seriously. If you want others to take you seriously when you tell them you’re writing a book. If you are a quote unquote seasoned writer, shiny new idea syndrome is especially troubling. By now, you likely have at least a handful of adoring fans who are impatiently awaiting your next book.
Or you may have an editor at a publishing house tapping her foot and looking at her watch while you cavort around with this other idea.
Friends, we are fickle. Our minds wander. We daydream. This is why we do what we do and why we are so good at it.
When shiny new ideas present themselves, we want to follow them as they lead us away from our current work in progress, singing their siren song and making promises they cannot possibly keep.
In the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ll link to it in the show notes. She talks about this, She talks about these ideas. She, she believes, “ideas are a disembodied, energetic, life form.” And if we don’t acknowledge them, they will go away to someone else. And she has a really, really compelling story in her book that supports this theory.
So what I like to do when presented with shiny new ideas is spend a few minutes. No more than a Toucan20 session. At this point. You should know what a Toucan20 session is, but if you don’t, please revisit episode two. Spend a Toucan20 session with the idea. Acknowledge it. Thank it for coming to you.
Thank you idea for presenting yourself to me. I acknowledge you. I love you. I want to work with you. But I can’t right now. Okay. And then write it all down in your notebook with as much detail as you possibly can, and then tell the idea that you will come back to it later when you’ve finished with Old Musty over there.
An old musty, bless his little heart, will give you a toothless grin and maybe just maybe having written down this new idea and spending a little of time with it, you’ll feel refreshed to come back and finish that book.
And that’s the key here, my friend. I want you to finish your book. I know you want you to finish your book, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be listening to me prattle on and on about this, right?
And even if you’ve already finished a book before, and therefore this isn’t your first rodeo. Every book is different. I don’t know about you, but I have learned something new from every novel length of manuscript I’ve ever written, and I have a lot. Remember the million words that I’ve written? There’s a lot more where those came from, between 2018 when I figured out I hit the million word mark, and today,
So in short, too late. I know. Don’t be afraid of shiny new ideas. Recognize them for what they are. Acknowledge them. Spend some time with them, but do not give in completely to their wily ways. They are tricksy little hobbitses and will keep you from finishing Old Musty.
Trust me. I have a whole folder on my hard drive called “unfinished” full of partially finished manuscripts I never came back to because of shiny new ideas.
Of course, that was before I found Toucan20.
Next week. I have a very special part, one of a special two part episode for you all about how to plan for distractions.
But before I let you go, I must must acknowledge what today is other than Halloween, okay? Because it is also the eve of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. So if you’re participating in national novel Writing Month this year, let’s be buddies. My handle on nanowrimo.org is Littlemunkiegirl.
I will put that in the show notes because it is not spelled the way that you would think it’s spelled. And also, please don’t judge me for that handle. I’ve had it since 2004.
And one more thing. If you love Halloween as much as I do, I’d love to see your best or favorite costumes you’ve worn in the past or what you’re wearing this year, or if you go all out with your decorations, I’d love to see that too.
Tag me on Instagram @clairelFishback, and why not follow me while you’re there.
All right, friend. Happy Halloween. Set your timer and go write.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I really hope you learned a ton of stuff from this episode. If you like what you heard, please consider sharing this podcast with your friends.
Or better yet, leave a review. So amazing listeners, just like you will find me. Set your timer. Go write.
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
Youcan the Toucan