Why Idea List’s Contradict Their Purpose


In two months I will have been writing on Medium for a year. I started with a lot to say and even more that I wanted to analyze. I have no plan on stopping in the near future.

Yet, I do want to address a problem that I have been having and I’m sure others who have been on this platform or a similar writing platform have faced something similar.

I do all of my writing on WordPress because I like the format and editing of it. I schedule a story on my WordPress site and schedule a crosspost to Medium. I do all of my outlining in Google Docs or in my bullet journal if my laptop is not with me.

The problem, while continuing to write hasn’t been that much of a challenege, the idea process has become a bit of a struggle. I utilize what I call an Idea List in my Google Docs.

And lately, this idea list has felt more of a trash dump for ideas of the past and I think I know why.


Ideas need to be completed upon creation

Ideas tend to come and go fast.

Recording these ideas doesn’t always mean you will remember the entirity of what that idea meant to you later on. I mean this in both literal and figurative sense.

The idea might have been not written out clearly and you have no idea what I Love Uncertainty means. And yes that is actually an idea for an article I wrote down.

On the other hand, an idea can also be present and clear but not seem to be as big a deal as you thought. Maybe you came up with a lot of subsections and thought through it at the time of recording, but latety looking back on it, the idea feels like it doesn’t have the substance you once came up with.

Writing down your ideas in an idea list doesn’t mean you will have the inspiration and motivation you had before to follow through with that idea.

Diving back into my own idea list, I have written on occasion X Ways you can Improve Y.

While I’m not specifying the Y because these might become articles later on, the X is my lack of exploration and motivation to go do the research for that particular article. The idea itself might work and the article might turn out nicely, but put into an idea list leaves it to feel like one day it will come out easily as the next thing to write.

Ideas are a spark of inspiration and refusing to light the flame will make the spark burn out.


Idea lists can be overwhelming

When you have one good idea, you know it and will start working on it in the moment.

Putting it into a list for later feels like the right thing to do if you don’t have the time or resources to attempt at that idea presently.

One thing I’ve come to notice is although an idea may still be usable, it is hidden.

The list may be full of great ideas that I will never find because before I know it is a great idea to pursue next, it is right below and above other ideas that I may notice before.

Choosing one idea that will be best to pursue is hard when none of them stand out next to each other whether all of the ideas are good ideas or bad ideas, they will mix.

One major idea becoming an item in a list automatically makes it a minor idea.


Calling it an idea list doesn’t mean it is worth anything

Ideas happen at the time and if you write them down and don’t pursue one, there is also the possibility the idea wasn’t complete. The idea was a theory for an idea.

When I write, I write about how I am feeling or what I have been thinking about through the week.

Something that I once thought about writing might now be seen as a mindset that I can no longer access. The idea has become worthless to me.

After I’ve chosen what to write about, my idea list moves onto the next week and again loses value in what these ideas will become later on.

Because writing and engaging with an audience is fairly current, throwing an idea out there that was barely on our minds to begin with will be not only obvious, but disengaging to both the audience and writer after it has been published.


What can be done to make idea lists viable?

Overall, I am not saying idea lists are invaluable. I’m saying a backup of ideas isn’t a good idea.

Idea lists should be created and modified to stay current and relevant to whatever project you are pursuing.

What I’ve done in an attempt to make my idea list more viable is modify it to categories.

Some of what I write about can be completely different from other portions of my writing.

Sometimes I might be in a philosophical mood and other times I may want to teach something. These categories are what will save me from reading all of my ideas in order and not knowing what to do.

I also took the time to rewrite some ideas I had before to fit how I see them now and take the time to think through if they are worth keeping on the list or not.

It’s a weird cycle to try and force inspiration when most of the time that won’t work. When we feel we need inspiration, a formula for obtaining it needs to constantly be made viable for ourselves.

Finally, I believe an idea list can be utilized and it’s purpose still apparent, but treating it as a dump (as I have done) has only taken value away from it.

Take the time if you have an idea list of some sort to look at it and don’t look at what you see, notice what you don’t see and what has lost it’s meaning. Then adapt.

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