Write Bigger Series: Resources for  College Bound Students 


Messy Idea Theory


Messy idea theory is a groundbreaking mind shift about how nebulous ideas are translated into powerful prose.

Now you may have never heard of Messy Idea Theory because, well, I made it up and then gave it a name…but I did that to shake up and help you rethink how to create a great piece of writing. And it just so happens to be the process that’s helped hundreds of the people I've worked with learn to write better and sound smarter.

Alright so Messy Idea Theory goes like this:

Ideas live inside the messy houses of our brains. Even when we try to think of one thing at a time, an idea will wander outside, hop the tracks, or get all tangled up with other ideas. This really isn’t even a bad thing. It’s just a thing about our brains. 

The problem comes from the clash between the natural habitat of our messy ideas and the expectations in a polished piece of writing. If messy ideas live in a world that’s boundless, tangled, and layered, polished writing is basically the opposite: logical, clear, concise, correct, beautiful.

And it’s this clash that can make writing for an audience feel like straightjacketing our ideas into a rigid form. And contrary to popular belief this stress and expectation doesn’t actually make writing better but the opposite. This clash is responsible for procrastination, disorganized prose, dull language, a lack of coherency, not to mention perhaps the #1 reason, many many despise writing projects. 

But what if there was another way?

What if instead of the struggle and stress of forcing wild ideas into perfect sentences, you could harness the creativity of your messy ideas to make your writing better? What if your messy ideas and chaotic thoughts could somehow give your writing the coherency your message deserves? What if you could learn to write faster and procrastinate less? 

I created a 5-step process to help you translate ideas from the wild wild world of your brain, into content you can use, and into a better format that will ease your procrastination tendencies. 


Embracing Your Messy Ideas

  1. Let it out. This step is all about freeing your ideas. You can do this because it has a limit. You’re going to set a timer for 10 minutes. Dump out all of your ideas onto a blank page, without concern for spelling, grammar, punctuation, impressing others, etc. If the blank page still sounds intimidating, ask yourself if you’d rather draw your ideas or speak them into a voice recorder. It doesn’t matter which one you pick—it just matters that you let the ideas be messy. It’s important that it’s timed so you don’t keep writing and writing. You want a little mess, not a big one.
  2. Use a net. This step is all about identifying your purpose by looking for trends. Look over your ideas. Imagine that you’re using a giant net to wade through the murky waters of your ideas. Which ideas catch in the net? In other words, what are the big ideas or the recurring thoughts? 
  3. Pan for gold. This step is about establishing a purpose. Sort through your ideas and organize into big, supporting, or irrelevant. Spend 2 minutes putting your big idea into a 1-2 sentence. This process is an essential step where you explain to yourself your most important idea. 
  4. Order the treasure. This step asks you to impose an order. Put your newfound ideas into a pleasing order based on your BIG IDEA, along with smaller ideas. Spend a few minutes adding any new ideas that come to mind based on your outline. 
  5. Write the Script. Now you’re ready to do what most of us think of as the first step: write! 

So instead of wrestling with your invisible thoughts learn how to use them for good. You’ll soon discover that your ideas are clearer, your writing is better, and you’re not wasting time avoiding or starting over. Make sure to grab the Messy Idea Map in my free download to help you use this method anytime you have a project. And if you know someone with a writing project help me share the wisdom of Messy Idea Theory with the world and share this video.  Until then, write better, sound smarter, and have fun as you discover the buried treasure just lying around and inhabiting your own mind.  


Victoria Payne

Victoria is a writer, story coach, and author of Write Big: From College Application Essay to Storytelling Standout. She's helped hundreds of students find their voice, gain admission, and win scholarships through her Write Big process. College bound students can learn learn more about how to write like a storyteller and standout in her free training.