On Tuesday afternoon, I came down with a terrible, terrible illness. Shiny-new-idea-itis. (As I’m sure y’all guessed from the title.) This disease can strike at any time, but don’t worry, it is neither fatal nor contagious.

Symptoms of shiny-new-idea-itis include (but are not limited to):

  • Daydreaming about an exciting new story and characters
  • Difficulty sleeping due to said daydreaming
  • Compulsive need/desire to share new idea with writing friends, paired with debilitating fear of their reaction
    • “What are you doing?! You’re supposed to be working on that other story!”
    • Or worse: “Hmm yeah, I like that. And it sounds so much better than what you’re currently working on.”
  • Extremely productive writing session (e.g. 1300 words in 2 hours)
  • Guilt over abandoning current manuscript
    • NOT that you are abandoning it!
    • You’re just… taking a break, a brief detour. You’ll get right back on track tomorrow! You just need to get this all down so you won’t forget it.

This malaise seems to strike most often when a writer has made significant progress on their work-in-progress (e.g. 20-30k words). Experts speculate that this may have to do with the high output of the creative brain/imagination during the drafting process; it is so engaged that it almost cannot help itself. One work simply isn’t enough. It must have MOAR!

Other experts hypothesize that this sickness simply arises from a combination of a writer’s fear, frustration, and fickleness, again most often culminating at a certain point in the process (e.g. 20-30k words).

Both groups believe that overcoming shiny-new-idea-itis is critical to the health and wellbeing of not only the writer, but also the writer’s work.

Remedies for shiny-new-idea-itis include (but are not limited to):

  • Getting it all down so you won’t forget it, and then moving on
  • Telling your boyfriend, whose frustration (and concern that you’re losing focus) will instantly deflate you
  • Taking a nap/getting a good night’s rest

The good news is, I tried all 3 remedies in combination, and I appear to be making a recovery. Furthermore, I now have another fun story idea to add to my (omgsoverylong!) queue. And now that shiny-new-idea-itis is (mostly) out of my system, I find myself missing my current manuscript and its hilariously naive-but-she-thinks-she-knows-it-all protagonist.

    17 responses to “PSA on shiny-new-idea-itis”

    1. T.S. Bazelli Avatar

      Ohh it happens to me all the time! I make sure to jot down notes so it’s not forgotten. So hard to resist new shiny’s though :(

    2. Les Avatar

      Oh I have that. Except I never go back to the old one.

    3. gingermandy Avatar

      Come sneeze on me so I get some of this awesome sickness, please. :)

    4. Scott Avatar

      I did that last year after I finished the first draft of my thriller. It needed revising but I was totally burned out from it (it was six years of on again off again work). So, when a new idea came along, I happily jumped on board. I haven’t touched the thriller since, but I did manage to finish this new book…so I guess it worked out. I’ll go back to it someday. :)

    5. Shari Avatar

      Best disease ever ;-)

    6. Sarah Avatar

      So funny. I have nothing to add except that I heart your tendency to “fall ill.”

    7. Sherrie Petersen Avatar

      I think it’s all that creativity when you’re working on another story, it spills over and all these shiny new ideas burst from your cortex. Okay, that sounded kind of gross, but I know what you mean. Happens to me every time :)

    8. Kristan Avatar

      I could live with that… if you would post some writing again!!

      6 yrs, wow… Yeah I burned out on my first novel after 3 yrs. I’m at a point now where I feel I could go back. But then there are all these new ideas… :P

      Gross but apt, hehe. I love the word “cortex.”

    9. Efren Rodriguez Avatar

      Every other day I’m coming down with it. The worst part for me it’s that it won’t allow me to finish my current project and not to mention the sleepless nights.

    10. K. Marie Criddle Avatar

      I want this disease! Can I sit next to someone with it and they can creatively cough on me or something?
      Love the post, Kristan. Hilarious!

    11. Jon Avatar

      I get this disease all the time, and for me it’s debilitating. There are many first drafts left unfinished because of this very same obsession.

      I am going to have to try your remedies.

    12. Aisha Avatar

      I say go with whatever you’re excited about, even if that means abandoning a story you’ve worked on for a while. What’s so bad about that?

    13. Adam Heine Avatar

      Yeah, I totally have this. The first remedy works best for me, and I even finished my (old) draft! Unfortunately now I have to edit an even older manuscript. This is the worst case of SNItis I’ve ever had!

    14. Kristan Avatar

      Sounds like you got it bad… I can’t really help you out, but I can sure sympathize!

      K. Marie-
      Hehe, thanks. I’d sneeze on you! Um… I mean that in the friendliest way possible, of course.

      The problem becomes if you never finish anything. It’s okay to have lots of ideas, but you can’t make a career out of unfinished novels. (Unless you’re dead and already famous.)

      Eesh. But at least you finished one! That’s a good sign that the sickness has not completely consumed you!

    15. Katie Avatar

      I beg to differ: I think Shiny-new-idea-itis is highly contagious! I had a bad case earlier this week but the doctor’s orders of writing it all down helped tremendously.


    16. Aisha Avatar

      I guess, unless you get so excited you don’t sleep til you finish it :P

    17. Kristan Avatar

      Did you catch it from someone else?? That’s what I meant. If from me, then I apologize!

      LOL not an option for me, unfortunately. I am completely useless without sleep.