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How not to get distracted by other (comic) ideas

I’ve made a video on this topic, too. Scroll past it if you’d rather read about this subject.

I think many artists know this feeling: Too many ideas! 

Especially when you’re working on a longer creative project, like a comic, other story ideas will pop up in our heads.

What do we do with these ideas? Do we push them away? Or do we run with our ideas and try and cram in the time to make everything we want to make?

I can tell you that there’s a way to keep nurturing those new ideas without necessarily taking massive action on them. That is what this article is about. 

Tip #1: Don’t run with every idea that pops into your head.

Not every idea is created equal. Some ideas you had and you started on because they meant something to you. 

The way to make sure you stay on track is to make sure that when you’re in that phase when you have to choose a project, you choose the one that is the most fun, the most exciting or the most important to you. 

I did a video on how to keep up motivation and where I go deeper into the “why am I making this comic?” question. You can watch that right here.

Tip #2: Let your ideas “simmer”

I often find that ideas are always exciting to me when they first show up. But when I let my ideas sit, and I come back to them later, I find that the initial spark has gone out and the idea is not that exciting anymore.

Then there are ideas that always pop up. That one story your brain always goes back to. Or that image of an illustration you’d like to do. Those are the ideas that still get you excited, even when you let them simmer for a bit. Like a week, or a month.

“How can I let my ideas simmer without them still bugging me,” you ask?

Tip #3: Keep an idea log.

Have a notebook where you write your ideas down. Include any additional info about the idea. Things like colours, atmosphere, side characters, locations, etc. Empty everything about your idea out of your brain, onto paper. So your brain can let it go.

You can do this digitally of course, in Evernote, or a Notion database.

Then, after a month, come back to it. Is the idea still interesting to you? If not, you can cross it off again, or delete it. If yes, add any extra ideas you had in the meantime. 

Keeping an idea log has a few benefits: 

First, it gives your brain permission to let go of the idea in the moment. It’s stored safely in the log and you can come back to it later.

Secondly, I think it’s healthy for your brain to come up with ideas. Train that “idea muscle.” 

Instead of stifling our ideas, pushing them away, or forgetting about fun ideas you could use in the future, you create a place in your life where ideas can flourish and where you take them seriously.

 They can inform your next project and make sure you’re never without ideas again.

Tip #4: Carve out occasional time to work on something else than your main project

If you are the kind of person who needs a change of scenery every once in a while, and you know it will refresh your energy for your current, main project to work on something else every so often, then I suggest freeing up an evening once a month. Or maybe one hour every week, to work on something else. 

And then you can work from ideas in your idea log. Expand on those ideas to your heart’s content. Sketch, write, maybe do a few illustrations over the course of the year. Just be really careful of your planned time. It can be easy to get attached to new ideas soon. Stay mindful that these are fun times, but with limits. Sometimes it’s just fun to take an evening and make a Pinterest board for a completely different world and idea. But keep in mind why you’re doing your main, current project.

If you feel like you are someone who loves to work on many different projects, then making short comics and short projects might actually be beneficial for you, as opposed to locking yourself into a giant story you’ll work on for years. I have made another video about the benefits of doing short comics here.

In conclusion: have a main project you’re working on. Make it clear to yourself why you are working on that project. Be sure it’s something that gets you excited. And log all the other ideas so you can let them go for now. Let them simmer. Then, later, prune, edit and expand on them, but do that in designated blocks of time. Don’t let these ideas derail you.

But you don’t have to push them away either. After all, we can’t help having new ideas, can we? 

Just make sure you’re able to bring your current project to the finish line. Keeping your focus on that one will make sure it’s done well. And faster than if you’d do multiple projects at the same time. And when it’s done, you can move to something else in your idea bank.

If you want to start making comics and bring all your ideas out into the world then check out my new course, How to Start a Comic. The notification list is open, click here to be notified the moment the course launches. (on Kickstarter, for a special early bird price)

How to Start a Comic will guide you through the entire process of starting a comic, from ideas, to story, to workflow and designing everything you need in order to start making pages.

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