Tales from an Idea Hoarder

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I read an article recently where a writer admitted she hoarded her ideas the way some people hoard old family keepsakes. I had to chuckle out loud a bit while I was reading, because if we’re all telling the truth here, I have a tendency to hoard ideas as well. You know people in the TV shows get overwhelmed when faced with the idea of tossing out their treasures?

A stack of old magazines with an inch worth of dust. Well, there were some recipes in there I was planning to try and make . . .

A bolt of faded floral fabric. I had a pattern around here somewhere and I was going to sew a dress for my best friend’s niece’s granddaughter . . .

As much as I hate to admit it, I have ideas filed away everywhere. You know how Nicole talked about tossing out old notebooks when she came to terms she would never use any of the stories she had stored in them? I’m pretty sure I have a few things in my files I could toss. Let’s open a drawer and find a random folder.

Item #1: A thick, manila folder labeled “iParenting.” It’s full of e-mail interviews, printed pages of research, and assignments from the editor I used to work with on the website. Back in 2005. During that time period I was writing articles about when a baby is most likely to start crawling and how to make your own baby food. I wrote for the website because I was just getting started freelancing and was the mother of an infant. I was writing about what I knew. Do I write about infancy and toddlers these days? With a 12 and 15-year-old, no. There are other topics top of mind now, but I’m happier to explore them through fictional stories. This folder should probably be tossed and no longer hoarded!

Item #2: A folder labeled “Active Queries.” This is interesting because there is nothing active about them. The folder is full of market research I did on various magazines—I had written down the most recent fiction stories in Highlights magazines and what category they fell under. I find the typed pages of a short story I submitted to Highlights called “Ice Cream Dreams.” There are notes from 2012 where I researched what stories ran in each section of Family Fun Magazine so I could get an idea of what types of queries they were looking for. 2012. I think maybe these notes are probably okay to recycle now.

Item #3: A folder labeled “Ashes, Ashes.” Ahhh. Now we’re getting somewhere. In this folder I find my syllabus from the class I took this past fall, along with four weeks of essays I produced with the critiques from my classmates. This is more in line with the types of writing projects I’m more interested in these days—creative nonfiction. These essays are raw material; a good place to start, and they just need some molding and shaping like a sculptor working with clay. I’m not going to recycle these notes, because with a little work, these essays could make for possible literary magazine or writing contest submissions.

I thought I had purged most of my unnecessary files last year when I moved into a new house, but I guess there are still some ideas I was grasping onto. Hoarder or not, it’s good to rifle through your folders (on and off the computer) every now and then and ask yourself if some ideas are worth letting go. You may also discover a piece you had forgotten about. That’s always a nice surprise.

Now if only I could do something about these ideas filed away in my brain . . .

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also the marketing director of a nonprofit theatre company. Learn more at www.FinishedPages.com.


Awenydd said...

This describes me perfectly...I'm an idea hoarder!!!! LOL

Joanne said...

You must have been looking inside my file cabinet! :) Seriously, though, your clear listing of what you found and your reflections on it have inspired me to take a look at that file drawer and clean it out--this week! Thank you, Renee.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--As that song in the famous movie says, "Let it go! Let it go!"

Occasionally sifting through those files--either physical or mental--is a good thing.

Have a great holiday, Renee.

Margo Dill said...

I have files and files to go through and a 3-ring-binder or two of ideas, too. This makes me smile. :) I hope to declutter those files soon, too.

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is so great, and I'm totally guilty of this. We should compile all of our ideas into a massive idea pile and randomly pick from it to use as writing prompts. That would be so fun! :)

TG most of my ideas are written in Google Docs or on iCloud. I'm impressed you actually printed out your essays and critiques from your latest class. I really need to do that more because you see things so differently. I'm always tweaking at things though and never have the final final and don't want to waste paper.

Love the title of your post too,Renee! :)

Nicole Pyles said...

I can SO relate!! With all the notebook purging I did, I still have SCORES to go, not to mention all the ideas rolling around in my head. I am proud I threw away career notes I took in high school, now to clean house in my head :)

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