The TMI Dilemma

Friday, September 19, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

"I can't think of anything to write!" When I taught English and would have classes free write, at least one student would utter those words to me.

"Well, write what you just said a few times, and eventually, an idea will sprout in your mind," I would tell them. "How can you have difficulty finding something to write about?"

I've never had that problem. When I wake up, hundreds of ideas jog through my mind, each elbowing the other out of the way, competing for the top spot in my writing priorities.

Yes, I suffer from the TMI Dilemma - too many ideas. I've talked about this before. My desk is plastered with Post-It notes filled with ideas. My idea file needs to go on a diet, a purge that will result in a delicious payback for me.

If you, like me, are afflicted by the too many ideas dilemma, here are some strategies to help you focus on the cream of the crop:
  • Ideas, like fine wine, get better with age. Some need to age and develop a pleasing bouquet before you pop the cork and share it with the world. I've had a short story idea drifting around in my mind for two years. Each day, the details become a little more clear to me, and when the time is right, the cork will pop! And, I'll write the short story I am meant to tell.
  • Deadlines are key. Even if you don't have a deadline, give yourself one. Even a timed free write can bring the best ideas to the front.
  • Mind the brain. When ideas are swirling, stir them and see what floats to the top. That is the best idea to focus on.
  • Organization is open to visualization. On my office door, I have a list of articles that are due, along with the due date. By keeping these projects in front of my eyes, I am able to stay organized and on task.
  • A network of writer friends, or even friends who are creative thinkers, allows you to bounce ideas off them. Whether you join a critique group or just share an idea with a friend, they'll be honest with you. In the long run, your writing will be better, too.
  • Exercise the right to exorcise. I'm responsible for mowing our acreage. During that time, not only do I walk and get a great walking workout, but I also focus on an idea and flesh out details. If something isn't working with a story line or article idea, I exorcise the idea and start over. It works!

If you suffer from the TMI dilemma, try one of these ideas for fast relief and a clear writing path.


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