I’m sitting here on Halloween having just finished carving the pumpkins with my daughter and wife. It has become a tradition to get all the seeds, clean them up, and roast them into a delicious Halloween treat. I’m smelling them roast in the oven right now smothered in olive oil, salt, and as my wife tells me waaaaay too much garlic (it does smell of garlic very strongly in here but it’s so so good).
I mention that because with all the fun activities and delicious smells of food baking, it reminded me I had left this article sitting after writing a few notes a few days ago. The idea came to me after hearing from others that they suffer from the same fate as I often do. Others also write down ideas in some form and they sit for a long time until the idea and possibly motivation have faded so much it’s beyond being able to decipher.
I keep a task list on my iPhone where each task is actually an idea that I write down in the heat of the idea springing to mind. I rarely write any more than that and feel that it’s a great first step in writing about that idea.
Unfortunately my ideas don’t always materialize into something useful that I can use and they become increasingly difficult to decipher.
I’ve found a way that works well for me to keep ideas from fading away and I’m excited to share it with you. I also have a challenge for you so hopefully everyone wins.
If I looked back on my idea pad now I would be overwhelmed by well over 50 ideas that either aren’t relevant to me anymore or I have no idea what they mean. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry writes down a GREAT idea after waking up in the middle of the night but in the morning he has no idea what it means. Jerry spends the entire episode trying to decipher what the idea means, even resulting to asking random people what it means to them.
I’m overwhelmed when I look back at my idea pad which goes back over a year, possibly over two. At this point it may be best if I just clear house and clear my ideas. I’ve lacked good ideas lately and that could be because my mind is still dwelling on the already full idea list that I don’t want to fill up even more. That will only overwhelm me more, right?
So, at some point it may be necessary to stop looking back and write off those old ideas if you’re either not motivated by them or you forget what the idea was truly about.
There’s a major motivation issue when you start overloading your idea list also. My list has gotten so overwhelming that I don’t feel like I could ever catch up. Sort of drowning by a firehose of ideas from the past.
I’ve lost the motivation for many of those articles, or my interests have changed since I’ve written them down. Interests evolve over time but your idea list doesn’t, it’s important to always go over ideas you haven’t yet written about and cross it off the list if it doesn’t interest you anymore.
Once the motivation is gone, it’s hard to come back. If motivation doesn’t come back for a certain idea after a while, it may be time to write that idea off and remove it.
Avoid long-term writers block on one idea because it could eventually block you up from other ideas flowing too.
Revise Your Process
Now that I’ve looked back at my idea to writing process, I realize there are many things I could do better to make sure I follow through with my ideas. The first thing I need to do is something I’ve done all along, and I suspect you all have too. Write down the idea somewhere so you can eventually write about it.
Now is the important part, and the part I haven’t been doing which has caused me to lose clarity on my ideas. Go back over those few word or one line ideas and write a few more sentences about them. This will make it a bit more clear later on what you were thinking about.
If you want to take this a bit further, you may want to even put together a brief outline of how you see the idea playing out in writing. Once you’ve done this then you most likely have your idea in a draft post already or in an Evernote note. It can work into your current process.
Once you’ve written a brief outline, it may be helpful to write a short sentence on what you think should go into each topic. I did this process for this article and it worked out great. I had a heading for each section ready to go and a brief sentence to remind me what I was thinking. The sentence wasn’t fully formed and was very informal, but it works. Being informal and just writing your thought as it comes out makes it more natural for you to understand at a later time.
Here’s my simplified process:
- Write an idea in my “idea pad” (a few words or a sentence)
- Turn it into a draft post or note and immediately do step 3
- Expand on the idea within the week with more sentences or an outline with one sentence per heading
- Within a month or 6 weeks finish the post and publish
If you wait any more than 6 weeks then you risk the idea losing steam and forgetting what the heck you were even talking about.
Revive Your Ideas
If you have an idea list that’s slowly losing relevance and you’d like to revive it, I’d like to challenge you to join me and keep ideas from fading away. The goal is to clean up your idea list within the month of November. I have a huge rotting list of ideas that I look at and cringe every time. I need to go back and clean them up so I can look at my list and actually have something to work with.
Let me know if you accept my challenge by leaving a comment or a Tweet, I’d love to be in this with some others. If we are all able to clean up our idea list then we’ll all be better off.
I don’t know about you, but I need some accountability!
By the way, the olive oil, salt, and garlic pumpkin seeds are delicious! Happy Halloween!
Update: It’s December 2nd and I’ve been through my idea list several times to clean it out. I’ve also added some ideas but have since turned those into blog posts, which has left me with 24 ideas. I did good cutting my ideas in half because there were a lot that just weren’t relevant anymore.
I’m sure I can do more cutting down and will continue to work at keeping the number low. My goal is not only to keep the number of ideas down though, it’s to turn those ideas into a blog post more rapidly. With my new process I’ll have just as many ideas, but they’re more likely to move into something more useful (blog posts) before they lose relevance to me.