Our creek is flooding for the first time in ten years so it seemed kind of serendipitous to talk about what to do when your head is awash with ideas and you don’t know what to do with them all or which one to start working on.

I’ve been having that problem lately. It could be because my mind is in overdrive with so many things happening in the lead up to Christmas. When I’m really busy it always seems to generate far more ideas than I can cope with at any one time.

And I don’t know about you but I get horribly confused when I try to compartmentalise everything in my head. I find the only thing that brings me peace is to write it all down – get those ideas out of my head and onto paper (or computer screen) and work out what to do first.

For example, here’s what is floating around in my head at the moment:

  1. 8 book submission to educational publisher for series for the new National Curriculum;
  2. Rework two YA novels;
  3. Work on next draft of the MG novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010;
  4. Work on possible e-book on writing tips;
  5. Work on a series I pitched to a publisher at a conference;
  6. Work on the next draft of the novel I wrote for my May Gibbs fellowship in March;
  7. Submit a couple of articles to magazines.

And that’s just on the writing front. When I look at this list I realise there’s actually probably about five year’s work there and here I was thinking I could get it done in the next twelve months.

See that’s one of the great things about being a writer – yes, it can take a while to get your work accepted but until you do, you don’t actually have any deadline so you can spend as long as you want perfecting your work.

When I look at this list I realise that the key to avoiding total meltdown is to prioritise. This is the order that works for me.

1.  The first thing to work on is ANY project that has the REALISTIC possibility of bringing me income some time in the near future.

2.  My second priority is any rewrites that a publisher might have requested before they decide whether they are going to publish my work.

3.  My third priority is anything I have pitched to a publisher where they might have requested more.

4.  My next favourite thing – probably relates to my headspace and the main character I feel closest to at the moment.

So I guess what I’m saying here is set yourself short and long term goals – but make them realistic. Allow yourself enough time on one project to get it right before you move on to the next. Unless you have a specific publishing deadline, you don’t have to be in a hurry.

It’s great to get all of your ideas out of your head and into a journal or whatever format works for you. Then you can concentrate on each task, one at a time.

Once you have worked out the order of things, it’s a lot easier to switch off from other ideas and just focus on what you are doing in the here and now – what your priority is at the moment.

Every writer will have a different sense of which tasks are the most important – which ones to tackle first.

I believe that if you just take it one rung on the ladder at a time, you will reach the top and fulfill your goals in the end.

Good luck and happy writing!


P.S. I’d really love to hear about your strategies for when the creative juices overflow and you have more ideas than you can handle. Just leave your comments here:)



  1. Dee,
    Looking at that photo I think building an ark should be highest on your list!
    Excellent post.
    I write a list too as it gives me the appearance of being in control. Then I waltz around and feel as if I’ve been very busy and written all the projects. Then I often start two projects at once and see which one flies.
    Good luck with all your projects!
    And can’t believe it will take someone as speedy as you five years.

  2. Hi Alison,

    No more rain expected now until…tomorrow lol.

    I like your idea of starting two projects at once and seeing which one has legs. Thanks for your good wishes – and your excellent help with my latest submission. Good luck with all your projects too:)

    I think five years is realistic for me getting a YA novel right, Alison. I tend to write the first few drafts pretty fast, but to get voice etc right, I think that five years is about right.


  3. I know exactly how you feel, Dee! And your good advice at the end had a lovely calming feeling. Like you, the only way I can get my mind to not go into melt-down is to list and prioritise.

  4. Excellent advice, Dee. Idea overload can lead to panic. I have to write or type mine out to calm down too. I also write down my writing goals at the beginning of each year in a fresh notebook and check them off at the end of the year as part of my goal planning. Sounds like you’re set on course for quite some time to come. Happy writing, and I hope you don’t need that ark. Don’t forget to post photos if you do build one. [Especially of the animals 2 x 2 🙂 ]

  5. Thanks, Chris,

    Writing goals at the start of the year are a great idea. Hopefully we won’t need that ark and if I had to build one I wouldn’t want to rely on it staying afloat lol.

    Happy writing to you too:)


  6. All those ideas might come to fruition years later- when I look back on my writing journals I’m surprised that the book that eventually gets published was one I was working on years ago under a different guise.

    Your suggestions for priorities are great, timely- after all New Year’s resolutions are soon, soon.

    But just like your photo Dee, ideas can bowl us away at unexpected times- lean in drought like an outline, then full flush when inspiration strikes.

    May 2011 be full to overflowing with acceptances and ideas. Tthanks for your great blogs.

  7. Hi Lorraine,

    Thanks for your comments.

    It is surprising when we look back and work out which ideas came to us at which time isn’t it?

    Hope you have a wonderful, happy and successful 2011 too.


  8. Hi Dee,
    Its easy to feel awash with too many ideas. My what-to-do list and priorities are firmly in my head but its about time I record them in print.
    That’ll be the best way to set long term goals in the future.

  9. Another great article, Dee.

    Many writers start a project then move on to another, as the first flush of creativity is often the most exciting. But I also think it’s valuable (financially, work-challenge-wise and mental-clutter-clearing) to complete at least a few semi-finished projects, especially if their number is in double figures!

    And by complete, I mean COMPLETE – make the story as good as it possibly can be – and continue submitting until it finds a home.

    Cheers to you all


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