Grappling with too many ideas?




In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

How to deal with the flood of philosophical ideas that come to one’s mind? I am a productive scholar (at my career stage). But the reason why I am productive is that I often get philosophical ideas that really disturb me until I get them published or at least written on paper. Whenever I got a new idea, I get genuinely excited about the idea, and I have trouble sleeping at night since the ideas keep me awake until I have written drafts on them. I am also afraid that someone else will publish my ideas before me – which is not good since very often I have new ideas. I do not want to work during office hours (only), the best thing about being a philosopher is that I can work whenever I got the inspiration. But what should I do when I have too many ideas in my head (or new ideas come too often) so that I struggle to do anything else besides writing and thinking?

These are great questions, and I’m curious to hear answers from readers. This is something that I grapple with a lot. I constantly jot down new paper ideas in the note function in my iPhone, and create new folders for them on my computer (just to remind myself of what I might work on). However, I don’t actually get to writing papers on most of the ideas, and can take a while to get to the ones I do simply because there are so many of them. How do I decide what to work on? Basically, I try to rank paper ideas in my head in terms of philosophical importance, urgency (viz. how timely the idea is and how important it may be to get it published soon), and finally, confidence in my ability to get the paper done fairly quickly (I don’t like to spin my wheels on papers that I’m not clear on how to complete). Finally, I take special care to ensure that I have a fair work-life balance, so that I don’t spend all of my time writing and thinking (I work M-F from roughly 9am-5pm, never in the evenings, and never on the weekends). I’m not sure how helpful this will be to the OP, but hope they find it at least somewhat helpful.

What do you all think and do? If you have a flood of philosophical ideas, how do you decide what to work on? How do you deal with the concern that someone else will publish ideas before you? Finally, how do you handle the above while achieving sufficient “work life balance”, so that you have time to do things other than writing and thinking?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More