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I Have the Ideas, But Can’t Find the Words

Years ago, before I decided to take the plunge into the frigid freelancing waters, I thought (naively) that the hardest part about writing was coming up with ideas.

Where does [insert author name here] come up with this stuff? I’d wonder, while reading my latest selection from the library. I’d envy the novelist’s imagination, wishing that I too could come up with so many exciting plot lines.

Silly me.

Now that I’m doing the writing thing full-time, I realize it’s not the ideas that are tough, but the execution of said ideas. I have 51 drafts saved in Medium. I have a list of 130 additional ideas in an excel spreadsheet. And then there are the 35 or so ideas I have in an app on my phone.

Every time I turn around, I stumble over an idea. My son loves reading: essay for parenting magazine! My cats are fighting: blog post! My head starts pounding: article on migraines for a women’s health website! That creepy house we drive by every so often: short story! Pretty much every moment of my day could be turned into an idea for some piece or another.

The trick isn’t coming up with topics, it’s figuring out how to write about them. Those 51 drafts in Medium are all attempts to get to the core of some issue I want to address, be it parenting, friendships, marriage, reading, or writing. The nugget of an idea is there, but I can’t find the words to get my thoughts across.

Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

When this happens, it feels as though my vocabulary has been stunted. Every time I try to write I come up with only the most basic of phrases, and soon my paragraphs read like a fourth grader’s failed attempt at penning an essay. The sentences are stilted. There’s no flow. And the thing I really want to say is buried underneath other messages I keep piling on.

I’d like to be able to write something to its completion, in one sitting. It does happen every so often, just enough to let me know that I can indeed accomplish something now and then. But it’s rare. I have drafts saved from last summer, and it might take me another year more to complete them.

Between now and then, I’ll continue jotting down ideas, adding them to the list, thinking of ways to capture every moment of every day of my life. I’ll attempt to tackle each of them and hopefully out of every dozen or so, one will emerge, completed, well written, victorious.

Until then, I have to figure out what to do with my overflowing list of topics. Because right now I have no idea how to write about any of them.

Writer, reader, mommy. Just trying to figure out this thing called life. Pub. in Boston Globe, Washington Post, and more / / Twitter: @sebejer

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