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Too Much To Write About

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

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16 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2006 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I completely get what you mean. Especially when you’re a personal blogger that relies on life to be inspired for your post. When you have an idea or inspiration to write, it becomes backlogged in the events that you feel like writing for the moment, so everything piles up and you lose the point whatever that may be about what you originally intended to write.

    What we end up with is a incoherant post of something that sounded good in our head a while back. I actually wanted to take up your challenge of blogging something that has changed my life. But with something like that, it’ll take time for me to write. Life just keep putting everything in my way in the mean time. But I’ll get it done…it’s too delicious a challenge to pass off. :)

  2. Posted June 27, 2006 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Yes I know that very well. You pinpointed it quite exact – it happens when I’m overwhelmed too, and that has been happening a lot since I have moved to a new city. I have lists with things and ideas to write about and sketches of posts that are ready to be written into real posts, but sometimes the words to finish them just don’t want to come along.
    I stopped worrying about it, I know that the words will come back sooner or later, they always do.

  3. Posted June 27, 2006 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    I get what you mean, that sounds a bit like my other non blogging life of being a wage slave. I guess the best way is a bit like walking up a steep hill, one step at a time only in this case one post at a time.

    Oh and better get rid of the half eaten lunches and tea leaves before they come to life and over throw your rule of your workspace in a sudden coup d’etat

  4. Posted June 27, 2006 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    You should definitely have a look at the ‘Getting Things Done’ dogma:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gtd

    It helped me a lot, although in the end, when all is sorted and there is still too much to do, my opinion is that it all boils down to the three following pieces of advice:
    1 – delegate
    2 – delegate
    3 – delegate

  5. Posted June 27, 2006 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Hmm, delegate. Let’s see, for the past four months I’ve delegated care and feeding of the home, cats, garbage, and garden to my husband. I’ve been sleeping in hotels, motels, motor homes, tents, borrowed homes, and family beds, leaving the cleaning and household chores to others. All I’ve had to do is meet, greet, interview, write, and work. I’m sure that my share of the workload will return in a couple weeks when I get “home”. I’ll clean up the fruit and dust, but the papers may lay there a while in my mind while I resume “normal” life. But I like the thought that I might be able to delegate parts of my brain to the tasks! ;-)

  6. Posted June 27, 2006 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Nice to have you back online, Lorelle.

  7. Posted June 27, 2006 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I completely relate to Napfisk’s thought: “at least 10 items I could share with the world. Only thing is, when I leave them for a few days, I lose interest and can no longer believe anyone else would even want to know about them”.
    On the flip side to your problem, Lorelle, I currently have too much to read: Interesting books, new blogs found, articles from experts, etc, show up every day… And I can’t read them all. So… take it easy, and as you said: Start tackling the pile that looks like the most fun to you.

  8. Posted June 27, 2006 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I am surrounded by perfect people with perfect blogs and perfect lives with perfectly wonderful jobs…and they find the perfect time to casually, informatively, educationally, surprise me some more… blog. Perfectly.

    Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. My problems are inability, know?how?what?, and income.

    So, I’ll leave the blogging to the intelligent 10% of the nation and stick to my art.

  9. Posted June 27, 2006 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Love your writing Lorelle, but I can clearly see your point(s).
    Always curious on everything, well almost, I’m in need of 200 years of life.

    And then another 200 to get the time for all I want to do, to explore, to learn. I’m not by far as efficient in writing as you are, but my piles are old and crumbling.

    In my “new” apartment, where I moved in two years ago, I can hardly move, and the physical piles and heaps correspond to the mental ones. The don’t seem to shrink. The thing is, there are always new things to be done ;)

    In times when you’re on “The other method is worst. I lock up totally.”, do believe that with a fantasy like yours, you will never do everything you want. Let’s assume, for the sake of proof, that you do see all you want to see, learn all you want to learn, write all you ever wanted to write and live all you ever wanted to live. What then? Your fantasy would find new things to explore, right?

    In the lock up situation, just flip a coin. Pick anything, take a deep breath and write about it or paint about it. It doesn’t matter what it is, you get something done and normally you get it right. And certainly you beat the lock up.

    How do I coop with my own really dusty piles? The truth is, I don’t really. I always find something new to tackle. I cry over them, but one day …

    I find some comfort in the thought that many of my dusty papers have lost their actuality, and when I come to sorting them, I can throw away a lot, and the skies will clear up a bit.

    A few more lives or a few more brains would help.
    I wish I was as effective in writing as you are though.

  10. Posted June 27, 2006 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    mandarine: thanks for the thanks for having me back online, but I’m still not totally online. Traveling for another two plus weeks, and then finally home. Four months is a long time to be away. I miss hubby and kitties. Soon. I’ll be more online soon!

  11. Posted June 28, 2006 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    I generally have this problem when I write fiction. And then it’s followed with long, long periods of not having anything to write at all. But you should be fine.

  12. Posted June 28, 2006 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    When I meant delegate, it was not about household chores and secondary tasks, I meant delegate parts of your core business – that’s the toughest.
    I’m sure there are many a would-be blogger out there, with not so much to write about, who would be glad to be trusted with writing assignments from you. You could become the editor for some of your posts instead of the writer.
    I understand this course of events may not be very appealing to you, but in my opinion (and from my humble industrial experience) it’s either this or dump some of your projects (or alternatively throw some mental piles of stuff out the mental window). It’s either something you want done is done by somebody else (maybe not as well as it might have been if you had done it yourself, although you never know), or it’s not done at all.

  13. Posted June 28, 2006 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Good point.

    Now, if I could find a mental housekeeper and fellow writer willing to hook up to my brain. hee hee.

  14. Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    At least once a week I have little panic that “oh no, I’ve now run out of material.” But it passes once I actually sit down and do some writing. Then lots of ideas come into my head for new posts. And then I think “oh no, I’ll never have enough time to publish all these good ideas!” Isn’t it funny the tricks your mind plays on you?
    I’ve just discovered your blog, BTW. So much great information!

    • Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Welcome. It is indeed funny how the brain works. Some weeks, dry as a bone. The next, flood. That’s how creativity works.


11 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...]I know I have a backlog of things I’ve been meaning to blog about and Lorelle puts it so eloquently that it really can’t be helped especially when you do have commitments to attent to. One thing that I have been putting off writing for some time was the challenge that Lorelle set out for some of us, to blog about someone or something that has changed our life. I think this is the right time to put it all down.

    “I’m so glad that my guardian angel came all the way to see me.”. I remember those were her last words to me before I left the hospital. [...]

  2. [...] I came across this post form Lorelle on her wonderful Blog, where she assumes ironically that “After all, we blog for therapy, don’t we? “. I thought it was quite a good question for 365questions. [...]

  3. [...] the post she pointed us towards was written a while ago, but it’s a perfect description of what happens when blogging overwhelm strikes… The link was included in a comment she made on a guest post by John Pozadzides on [...]

  4. [...] I travel, leaving the “regular life” behind, I’m often besieged with blog ideas. Most of them don’t see the light of day, but they do see my Article Idea notebook, stuffed [...]

  5. [...] I travel, leaving the “regular life” behind, I’m often besieged with blog ideas. Most of them don’t see the light of day, but they do see my Article Idea notebook, stuffed [...]

  6. [...] best in the blogging, social media, and web publishing industry, once again because of HER I have too much to write about. Through the three intense days of the event, I’ve been taking notes on everything, table [...]

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