I find as I'm working with people on their writing projects that they have trouble with all the ideas tumbling around in their heads. "I have this idea up there, but it just doesn't go anywhere!" they say, frustrated.
"Have you started jotting down ideas, planning the structure, the story arc?" I ask.
Blank look, then a start. "No, like I said, I can't get it out of my head."
See, that's the problem. Our minds, while they're wonderful things, can only get to a certain point before they hit a wall. It's like trying to manage traffic control at an airport. You can only keep sight of so many planes yourself. At some point, you just can't get any farther, and you have to depend upon radar. (Of course, it goes without saying that in real life - as opposed to Dawn's writing metaphor -- air traffic controllers start with, maintain, and end their days with radar. They don't ever try to do their jobs with their eyes alone.)
But writers do. They think they're going to noodle through their ideas in their head so that when they get to the paper or computer screen stage, they can start producing full text.
It doesn't work like that.
Again, our brains only take an idea so far. Once we get those ideas down on paper or on screen, our brains can go farther. This happened to me while I was trying to come up with a title for my in-person writing workshop. I had the beginnings of a title in my head, and I found myself going, "That's terrible. That's not very creative. Why can't I come up with anything better?" And I'd go off and work on another part of the workshop (not the title), all the time in the background going, "What am I going to do about the title?"
Once I finished with the workshop planning, I turned my full attention to the title. I wrote down the really crappy title that had been floating around in my head all day. The minute I did that, though, I had a brainstorm. I wrote that down. Then another. And I wrote that one down. Within just a matter of minutes, I had a title I was happy with.
I've seen this happen in all aspects of creating and planning. I talked with an author who had her manuscript finished and was at a loss as to the next step. Based on her topic and the publishing house she wanted to target, she needed to do a book proposal. I sent her off with some suggestions, and she came back later to say that she had had a very productive week doing some research on agents, publishers, and book shepherds.