I’m currently in one of those positions many people envy. I revel in it, but it also backfires. So I thought I should write about it to help you learn about how to handle this situation, but also to help me get through it. After all, we blog for therapy, don’t we?
The situation I am in is that I have too much to write about. You might think this is wonderful. It is. But it isn’t.
It’s wonderful because it means that I have material overflowing around me to write about. I have tons of material to fill up my blogs and the many articles I write for ezines, magazines, and other publications. It means that I won’t soon run out of material.
It also means that I’m overwhelmed and there is too much content in my head.
Imagine the inside of my head looking like an office. In this corner of the desk I have a meter high pile of articles and research I want to write about on my family’s history after an amazing last few months digging into the past and coming up with full hands and head. Sitting in front of me is a half meter high stack of notes and ideas on articles about WordPress and blogging that have been backlogged with all the traveling I’ve been doing for the past 3 months. On the floor next to my chair are the stacked half finished manuscripts of three books I have to finish writing very soon, and under my feet is another pile of paper representative of another book still in the negotiation phase.
On the other side of the chair on the floor are piles and piles of PHP, HTML, and CSS coded print outs, covered with red pen marks as I analyze, troubleshoot, and break my head on them. There’s good material there for technical articles, but more problems to solve than publish. I spot an apple turning brown among the papers and ignore the ripening smell in my head. Maybe it will turn into one of those neat dried apple heads in a few months, preserved for all time. What do you think?
On the shelf above my desk, right above my mental laptop screen, is a huge row of articles on photography and travel rustling at me to publish on my Taking Your Camera on the Road website. On the shelf also sits a photograph of my husband, smiling at me with love in his eyes and camera in his hands. A smile and eyes I haven’t seen in four months as I’ve been constantly on the road. My heart aches. It reminds me that tucked in a small alcove underneath are months of dusty papers making dry cracking sounds from their thin pages on the airline manufacturing and maintenance industry for my husband’s aircraft engineering blog, much ignored lately.
In between and around the stacks of paper, notebooks, scratch pads, and books are the dried up remains of half eaten lunches and dank tea cups with the loose tea leaves starting to grow plants. A roll of stamps twists around the yellowing pages of another manuscript on the business of networking for nature photographers, a reminder of days gone by when such topics were in demand and real letters were once written. I don’t even pay my bills with stamps and envelopes anymore. In fact, I think the stamps have 29 cents imprinted upon them. Yikes.
Airline tickets and car rental receipts fill in the left over spaces, as does huge lumps of gas receipts and mileage records, keeping track of the more than 15,000 miles I’ve traveled by vehicle in the past six months, across 24 states, repeating some of them more than once (which total to 30 states, I think, but whose counting?).
I hear a sniffing and scuffling sound, and from in between the white stacks pops my black cat, Kohav, evil in her golden eyes. I grab the piles and hang on because right behind her is Holiday, my tiger kitty, chasing her across my mental desktop. It takes all my energy to hold everything in place. This time, the stacks survive. Next time, even in my mental office, I might not be so lucky.
With all of this mental clutter, you think that my brain would contain a gold mine of material worth digging up and translating into text for you to read and editors to buy. With all this mental clutter, it’s hard for me to focus and concentrate. That’s the truth and the dilemma.
When I’ve been in this situation before, I do one of two things. Mostly I focus on one topic, usually the easiest and most fun to write, and let all the others collect dust. It’s a productive way to procrastinate.
The other method is worst. I lock up totally. I can’t pick a topic, so I not only procrastinate but willfully start researching a totally unrelated topic, making up excuses that I’m “cogitating” on the other projects and will produce material on them soon. I do nothing. They continue to sit there, staring at me, reminding me of my inadequacy to handle the overload, growing plants between their pages.
I know how to handle it. I start with lists. Lots of lists. I have to prioritize, and do what will make money first, and play later, whether or not it is fun. I have to concentrate and not let life, friends, and family distract me. In between it all, I have to give lectures, presentations, workshops and programs, consult, and smile at the people, making them think that I’m brilliant, capable, and totally in control of my life and my work. It’s the act and part of the job I must perform while my brain melts.
In Hebrew, there is this marvelous phrase “ley-aht, ley-aht”. It basically means “step-by-step, one thing at a time, take it easy, relax, it will all turn out okay, slow down.” We don’t have such a concise phrase in English. So I constantly remind myself “ley-aht, ley-aht” and things will work out if I just take it one step at a time. No melting down.
And I lay you odds that within a month of my return to Alabama in a few weeks, we’ll pack up and move, either from a hurricane or onto a new job. Such is our life on the road. I love it and hate it at the same time. Think our life is romantic and fun? Try living in my traveling office head for a few days.
Have you been in this situation before? Have you been overwhelmed by having too much to write about? How do you handle it?
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network