At some point, all freelancers experience brain-drain. The creative challenge of brewing and executing fresh ideas, coupled with other daily demands – children, grandchildren, aging parents, health issues – can lead to sensory overload and burnout. How can creativity thrive when it’s buried beneath the worries of the world? Getting down to work when you’re already ëdown’ can be intensely stressful. That’s when a ‘possibilities folder,’ thoughtfully prepared ahead of time, can be a lifesaver.
Periodically, I paw through my stacks of older, rejected manuscripts, looking for stories that – despite their rejected status – still have a character, theme, plot, or germ of an idea that appeals to me: something that could be rewritten effectively and marketed anew. When I find old stories with potential, I file them in my possibilities folder.
As I scour the internet for Chicken Soup for the Soul story call-outs, monthly themes/deadlines for magazines like Good Old Days and Sparkle, a current needs list for Highlights for Children, contributor guidelines, or articles on newly-emerging markets, I print out these pages and add them to my growing pile of possibilities.
When I come up with an intriguing writing fragment – a good mystery clue, a few lines of a poem, a great opening sentence, or a new slant on a subject I’ve previously written about – I jot down these partial, kick-starter ideas and stash them away for future use.
Having a loaded arsenal of ideas enables me to work through demoralizing slump times. A simple manila folder empowers me when I’m feeling drained, faltering, or failed as a writer. Instead of having to begin a project at point A, I am automatically (and gratefully) thrust farther along because I’ve already done preliminary brainstorming days, months, or even years earlier.
When creativity ebbs, just knowing that I have a folder filled with workable ideas lifts my spirits and launches me back into action.
Wendy Hobday Haugh’s writing career began with the sale of a greeting card to Hallmark. Since then, she has written children’s magazine stories and articles, a kids’ non-fiction book, humorous parenting pieces, articles on writing, poetry, profiles, personal essays, Woman’s World short mysteries and romances, and a church history book. The thrill of writing something new – and, then, seeing it in print – keeps her powering through those inevitable slump times.