Fence-sitting or What We Write About When We Write About Ideas

I’ve been thinking about a few writing ideas lately, and because various ones are floating around, I am prompted to think about the process of thinking about ideas.

All of these ideas vie for attention, and the longer I postpone embracing one, the longer I’m aware of how hazardous it becomes to sit on this fence.

So I’m thinking about thinking. And I’m wondering what it is, precisely, that pushes one idea, like a lagging horse, to the front of the pack as they head down the home stretch. (Thank you, recent Kentucky Derby winner.)

I find that a longish list of elements or conditions is attached to every idea, and I feel a strong urge to explore them, but this is a blog, not a book, so that very thought has to go into the pack of ideas that has to wait.

For the moment, the condition of interest is “needed information.” Does the idea demand research? If so, what kind? This consideration can be huge, since walking out the door of imagination or memory and wandering down the hall to doors labeled “Google” or “local library” or “National Archives” means a shift in attention. Explorations behind any one of those doors will cause changes in schedule and will likely alter the plot — probably for the better. If that weren’t the case, why not imagine the needed facts.

The question of research doesn’t have a “good” or “bad” answer. Research can interrupt goals, but many useful things happen during disruptions. I think John Lennon had the pithiest comment on life and planning.

The solution becomes obvious. Reel in an idea and see where it goes.


About Carolyn

I live in Washington, D.C., write, teach, try to eat the requisite fruits and veggies daily, and avoid caffeine after 2 pm. I wonder about things a lot -- like why "pretty" means "pretty" and "not so much" and if I can ever perfect the single-portion, no-knead, daily baguette and how many people realize that Beau Brummel had a lot to do with our desire to bathe daily -- those of us who do in fact "take the daily."
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