Can you have too many ideas? Frequent Questions

Q: Is there such a thing as too many ideas?

A: Are you high?

A friend of mine is writing a book. “But I have too many ideas,” she told me. “I don’t know what to do with them all.”

This is what’s known in the trade as a high-class problem. Many writers with this “dilemma” would get down on their knees and kiss their keyboards.

But my friend is trying to write a book. And until she can domesticate some of those ideas, organize them into tidy little stacks, it’s going to be hard for her to see exactly what kind of book this book of hers wants to be.

So, yes, my friend has a problem. I suggested she solve it the low-tech way:

  1. Get a folder—or better yet, an envelope
  2. Label the envelope “Strokes of Genius” (hey—a high-class problem deserves an aspirational name)
  3. Every time you get an idea, write it down on an index card or some other paperlike substance
  4. Toss the card into the envelope
  5. Every couple of weeks (or month, or…), dump out the contents of the envelope and sort through them.

You’ve captured the ideas, so they won’t disappear. And you’ve also bought yourself some time.

So many ideas, so little genius

When the ideas tumble out of the envelope weeks later, most of them will make you question your judgment. No doubt they seemed brilliant when they first appeared. But in the clear light of day, they’re clearly just ordinary. Toss them out.

Some of the ideas—and be warned, this will likely be a minority—you’ll still like almost as much as when you scribbled them down. Maybe even more. Perhaps these really are genius ideas. Set them aside for further investigation.

But the majority of your ideas will fall somewhere in between worthless and genius. Sort through them if you like. But I generally just shove them back into the envelope until next time. If they still don’t excite me on second viewing, I deposit them in the circular file.

Life is too short to waste on ideas we’re not passionate about. Or people, for that matter.

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