Ideas beget ideas.
That’s probably the best reason to write all the time. When your mind is engaged and in writing mode, it doesn’t stop with what you’re working on. But this idea churn can be annoying, especially for writers like me.
I’m working on my novel, which is slow-going anyway being a stay-at-home dad with three kids. But when my muse (a mix of caffeine and insomnia) speaks up, she doesn’t contend herself with one topic. In fact, sometime the bitch needs Ritalin. During my time writing my novel, I have also written short pieces about demonic pirates, time dilation, colonization and jealousy via time travel.
A more disciplined writer would stick to her novel and file the new ideas under future projects. Unfortunately, I do not. Whether I’m right or not (usually not), I am convinced the new idea is amazing and world-changing and I must work on it immediately.
Take my latest story idea, which has nothing to do with the demonic urban fantasy I’m currently writing. I read the books Guns, Germs and Steel and 1491, which point out (in terms much more detailed than my description here) that a more worldly or advanced society tends to kill off one less so upon first encounter due to disease. Because of this, I’ve always held that War of the Worlds had it backward. I also believe that if time travel does exist, it can’t change history because history is already written and incorporates the results of the trip. (Sorry, that does mean every attempt on Hitler’s life has failed.) I combined these two ideas and realized that future time travelers could have sparked every extinction and pandemic in world history.
That idea at this point isn’t close to being a story. For starters, it lacks characters, situation or plot, which any idea needs before it can become a story. But I thought the idea was great. So great that, well, now I’m outlining it to get all the things that make an idea into a story. And temporarily derailing my work on my novel once again.
In the end, however, I think this subconscious idea factory is a good thing. It allows me to get a breath of fresh air from a longer work, which at least in my case is a good thing. I can experiment with different characters and different voices. Also, it keeps your creative muscles engaged. Either you’re working on multiple projects or you have a writing hopper to dig into when you finish your current project.
I wish I were a writer that could consign new ideas to the future. Meanwhile, muse, stay off the pharmaceuticals. Brew up another cup of joe. I’d rather have too many ideas, even crappy ones, than too few.