On Building a Collection of Work

I think a lot about the things I create and why I create them, or better yet, why I am drawn to creating them. Whether it’s a story for a novel that won’t leave me alone until I write it, a nonfiction book that begs to be written, or a simple blog post that hits me while I’m thinking about something else, I always seem to have this internal urge to put words onto the page.

I don’t know where it comes from. I’m sure there is probably some deep, psychological reason for it, but I’ve started trying to pay attention more to when and how the creative muse calls. More importantly, I have begun paying closer attention to how I respond to the call.

Do I ignore it and keep working on what was already in front of me? Or do I address the call immediately?

For years I have stubbornly continued to work on whatever project was in front of me at the time. I may stop long enough to make note of the idea, but rarely do I stop what I’m working on and change course.

But in the few times that I have answered that quiet voice in my head to change focus and feverishly get the idea onto the page, I have ended up with work that I am proud of.

For example, the book that I’m working on now came to me in the middle of the day while I was writing code for a project at work. I was already working on a novel at the time, but the idea was so well formed in my mind when it hit me that I was able to quickly switch gears and write the first draft in two weeks.

Now I’m working on edits and I have to admit that it’s probably one of the best first drafts that I’ve written.

I find that often times, if I write down an idea for a project and then let it sit for a while, I lose interest. The flash of inspiration is gone and the idea seems stale. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that many projects are left undone or collect dust on my hard drive.

So, I’m interested in what would happen if I simply stopped planning and thinking so much and followed the muse when it called. Less planning and more writing into the dark.

Would I produce and publish more content and/or projects? Or would I burn out if I constantly chased shiny new things all the time? Would there be a consistency in the work I produce? Or would it simply be a collection of random things with no cohercency? Who says a lack of coherency is a bad thing? I have to think that patterns would eventually emerge.

One of the quirks I have is that I am interested in an extremely wide array of topics - everything including technology, philosophy, farming, writing novels, politics, psychology, all the way to fringe topics such as astrotheology. It’s a wide scope.

If I were to follow the muse wherever she may lead, I may end up with a body of work that has no consistent theme or thread. Many times you hear creative coaches say you need to focus on a niche. The arguement is to go deep, rather than wide. Some would tell you that spreading yourself across multiple topics a bad thing - you fragment your audience if you’re to inconsistent with what you publish. But, I’m not so sure.

Maybe that’s the type of audience you eventually attract - those who are as interested in a wide variety of subjects as you are.

Also, when you’re interested in a lot of different subjects, one of the unique opportunities you have is the potential of running into new ways that unrelated topics suddenly have something in common. One subject informs another and new and interesting connections are created. Slowly, with enough time, your unique voice begins to emerge.

So, at the cost of having a consistent theme in my work (at least one that is initially obvious), why not let the muse have the wheel for a while and see what interesting things show up?

It’s worth a try.