More Than Words… Building Productivity Out of an Abundance of Ideas

There are probably writers who work in a nice tidy sequential fashion.  They have an idea, sit down, research it, write it, hit ‘save’ or ‘publish’ and move on. I’m not one of those writers.

Well, I used to be one of those writers, but I’m now solidly in the school of writers whose work-flow goes something like this: “Start with a couple dozen open tabs on Firefox and a collection of journal articles spread out on the desk, add a few though provoking conversations, have the connections start pinging in the brain …. and next thing you know, there are the notes for 3 or 4 different posts and articles, but nothing actually written.”

At some point I realized that this is the blessing and the curse of living in this Web 2.0/SocialMedia world.  An abundance of resources, an abundance of conversations to trigger ideas, and an overabundance of details to try to do something useful with.

I’m realizing more and more that the problem is not a lack of information structuring, nor of information filtering, it’s that I’ve needed to learn to keep my resources for a given piece of writing all in one place.  My brain is more than willing to be distracted when I write, and it was an awful lot easier maintain a hint of discipline when the only things within my grasp were directly related to the work at hand.  You know, Old School: at the big library table with references and note cards creating the only visual landscape; a wall of focused information blocking out the rest of the world.

So, I’m learning.  Learning when to allow myself time to dig into research and go down those rabbit trails that lead to serendipitous connections.   And learning to remember when it’s time to say “enough”.  Just because one has nearly infinite access to resources doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to gorge on all of them.   If I’ve missed an idea or a connection, I’ll find it later, on my own or through the comments of others.  But if I don’t get it written in the first place, there’s nothing there to improve on, to criticize or to expand on.  It’s that simple, and it’s that hard:  sit down and write.

Now, it would be really great if I had the discipline to tune out the siren song of Google Scholar, and the persistent calls of Twitter.  But it’s human nature, when you lift your head up from writing, to want to dig in and find “one more thing”.    I needed to find a way to keep all the resources for a project in one virtual workspace so I wouldn’t drift off while tracking down references, mind maps, emails, and notes that I’d collected.

For me this ultimately meant finding a software solution;  I started using Scrivener.   It allows me to recreate that giant library table of references and notes, removing the need to wander off to Google (or Mindmeister, or iStockphoto) to finish a project.

Writing is more that words.  It’s words fueled by ideas, challenging conversations, striking images, or problems to be solved.   Creating a virtual library table can make it possible for a writer to step back from the conversation long enough to actually produce something that contributes to the conversation.

Share


Speak Up

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*



one + 7 =