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The Ghosts in Your Dashboard

Your WordPress.com dashboard is the nerve center of your blog: it’s where your ideas come to life, and your creativity…

Your WordPress.com dashboard is the nerve center of your blog: it’s where your ideas come to life, and your creativity gives them shape. As writers, artists, and thinkers, we know inspiration can be sporadic and those moments of genius are fleeting — they come and go, which means that sometimes your literary flame burns out, and those bursts of creation are short-lived.

The result? An abandoned idea. The dreaded draft, sitting in limbo, staring back at you. And so, we’re curious: what’s lurking in the drafts section of your dashboard?

Go to Posts » All Posts in your dashboard. At the top, you’ll see links like this:

Drafts

Well, look at that — I have 46 unfinished posts in my dashboard! How about you? Scroll down and scan these unpublished treasures: you may re-discover a piece of memoir you couldn’t finish at the time, an incomplete gallery of images from last summer’s vacation, or a post you’ve simply forgotten.

We ditch posts for many reasons; maybe you felt uninspired and got bored. But sometimes, it takes a bit of time and perspective to write or create something, and you may find you’re in the right space to tackle a post from the past. So, sift through this list and consider these options:

  • Click “Edit” on a specific post and continue where you left off.
  • Open up and read each draft, and then create a new post from all that you’ve read.
  • Pull fragments from different drafts and craft “found poetry” from your dashboard detritus.
  • Run a writing challenge on your blog: post the draft and ask your readers to finish it. They can publish the finished product on their own blogs and link to their submissions in your comments.
  • Ask for help! Post the draft and insert a poll at the bottom of your post, asking for feedback on how to improve or complete it. (We’ll talk more this month about using polls, so stay tuned!)
  • Transform writer’s block into something productive, like writing about why you can’t write. Seems silly, but it gets you typing. I even have a draft in my dashboard titled “False Starts,” in which I compiled the first paragraphs of all of my drafts into one post, one after the other, in an attempt to create something out of unripe ideas:

False Starts

We’re curious about what lurks in your dashboard — tell us in the comments, and if you plan to revisit something!

126 Comments

  1. I only have 6 drafts in my dashboard. :) There’s something about finishing an old post that seems more intimidating than starting a new one.

      1. LOL you can send some of them my way if you like Cher, Lord knows at the moment my imaginary friends aren’t speaking to me ;-)

  2. I only have 3 drafts, and one of them is a blank. Up until recently, I was so excited about making posts that I would write, finish, and immediately post. Nothing got backlogged or left behind. I still want to post everything immediately, but I’m learning to pace myself so I can post content throughout the week. Especially this week. I’m queuing up posts to put out since I’ve got much going on with work, housework, and outdoors sports. I can write when I have the time, edit as I go, and then throw a post up in a quick few minutes before I dash off to work.

  3. Great ideas here. Obviously I need to stop being so anal about housekeeping on my blog. I tend to write in Word or TextEdit and transfer the final draft just before posting, so I rarely have bits & pieces sitting forgotten in Drafts. I see that section now, however, for the fun resource it can be — thanks!

    1. Yeah, it’s a strange limbo, this drafts dashboard. It’s like looking into your past and seeing those fleeting moments of creativity, and how they fizzled. It’s a bit like a time capsule, in my opinion. I’ve thought about deleting everything, but — like flipping through old diary pages — it’s a treat to revisit.

      1. I had that same thought — much like a diary, and more honest in a way than the actual blog because the bits & pieces are not yet polished and cleaned up for public consumption … and because it would be obvious where the various kinds of interruptions happened. I’ve learned something important here this morning!

  4. I delete drafts that seem unlikely to be worth publishing. If I am unhappy with the piece and cannot see a way to make it “fly,” I let it go. Sometimes the magic doesn’t work. I guess I’ve gotten mature enough to recognize if something isn’t going to make the cut.

    1. Sometimes the magic doesn’t work. Exactly. It’s all part of writing, isn’t it — letting go of ideas, making room for fresher ones. It’s kind of like being attached to a particular line, paragraph, or chapter of something we’re working on that just isn’t working.

  5. LOL ironic you posted this today as I have been IN my drafts area all morning. I had dozens and weeded out a few. I use the “drafts” option intentionally. Any time I have an idea, find a cool image, or have a unique thought, saying, or feeling come into my head I simply create a draft and hit save. That way i never forget and can use it whenever i feel I have nothing to write about.

    I do like the idea of a blog contest…I am definitely going to do that!!! Thanks!

    1. I do similar things, it’s where my ideas sit… but sometimes I forget I have ideas sitting there, I just found 27 of them tonight!

  6. not a single thing exists in my drafts…I post as I create…also I don’t write in the draft and edit form…I write stream of consciousness and there is always some thought lurking around in the crevices of my mind that needs to be ironed out so writer’s block is not an issue…

  7. If I get a few sentences down in a draft, I never delete it. I’ve been able to make something out of them. A lot of times there is a connecting piece I need for my ideas. Once I stumble onto it, the old post writes itself.

  8. This is something I’ve always done with snippets I find in abandoned notebooks or in old text files but I usually don’t hold onto many drafts here on WordPress.

  9. When I started blogging I wrote most of a post on a painful topic (suicide among military servicemembers). It took me over a year to be ready to revisit the subject and finish the post.

    Today I use “draft” for posts that I’m writing to be published on someone else’s blog. After a few months they’re ready to be re-edited for another guest post (or my blog). They tend to be common themes like “Should I join the military to get rich?” or “Frugality versus deprivation”. I can pull them up knowing that they’re largely formatted and only need another 20 minutes of tweaking for that other blog.

    But I really like the idea of crowd-surfing a draft to the audience and letting the readers finish it! I guess that would technically be crowd-sourcing…

  10. I have three drafts at the moment, and four scheduled posts, as posting daily I like to have something in reserve. I always complete my drafts, though I have stuck two together before.

    But if the dashboard is the nerve-centre, why has a fake dashboard, with far less, just a link to the “settings”, come up sometimes?

  11. I’ve a few drafts sitting around. There is one that I started that just felt all wrong but the others are just a few lines with notes in. These come about when I think, that’ll make a good post. I used to forget the ideas I’d had so they act as prompts and I can build them at my leisure.

  12. I only have two drafts right now. One of them simply needs a video added. The other I anticipated a while back, but am waiting for the photo to go with it. I will publish both of these within 30 days. I usually do not start a post if I am not pretty sure I can finish it.

  13. This update finally got me to finish a tale that I have been keeping on hold for 2 weeks. I have no earthly reason for storage other than the fact that I always got juicier ideas to replace. I love daily post. Love Love Love

  14. I recently cleared out my draft folder, but I all of a sudden seem to have 18! A couple of these are finished posts that just need to be scheduled, a couple are awaiting a final photo or a link to something, but the bulk are blank posts that only have titles or a few notes in them. I carry around a notebook for post ideas, but I’ve lost it twice (fortunately I got it back both times!), so now all my ideas get added to my Dashboard, just to be on the safe side!

  15. Oh yes, definitely. I’m on book two of three and that could finish the story or take off if one and two sell. Three will be about the kids, so they could go many places. Third book I’m advancing myself and typing from a detailed outline; this alone should save three months or more. I’m ready for that. Fourth book idea ( mind you with a big silly head here/dreaming) is a classic tale early 1900′s n botany and inventions and love n romance … Like out of Africa epic. Yeah I dream big. Then a few regular not so difficult stories. Then when I’m ready and good, a comedy, and I already know which comedian. My secret. He was my favorite all time funny man. Then, well, I don’t know. First I’ve got to give my characters bad habits, I tend to keep them perfect, but vulnerable.

  16. Most of my drafts are just a title or a sentence, and I CANNOT remember where on earth I was going with that. I have fiddled with just using a draft to write something, anything, but never have been satisfied with the results and so deleted it.
    Hey, at least the drafts section got skinnier!

  17. I have oodles of drafts waiting to be published. However, it’s not because I lack creative writing ideas. I use drafts simply because I live on a primitive island where my internet is cantankerous. Even with my homemade woktenna to catch a stronger signal from the Claro tower, which is partially blocked by the active volcano sitting in my backyard, my internet is fastest in the morning and late at night. Late at night, I load my photos and save into a draft. Early the next morning, I write my story and save it into a draft. Then, late that night, I publish it. We travel a lot, so drafts are invaluable for saving and publishing later. I really don’t think it would be possible for me to blog without the draft feature. I love it.

    1. hey amiga! ditto for me in ecuador! i had to laugh when i read cheri’s thoughts about the draft folder! and yes, i have ideas incubating there, but for me, i have to be able to access it online, and that’s not always possible! so they incubate and are worth the wait! her suggestions are good ones, and it would be fun to involve the readers….

      hmmmm.

  18. Wow, great ideas. I see now I have 23 drafts (minus a few I just deleted). I look at these drafts now and ask myself “What happened?” I wonder what stopped me from finishing them.

    Now I know what to do if I can’t think of a new blog post. :)

  19. It’s going to be a nice idea to try. My draft is full of unpublished items. If they seemed worth compiling at the moment I started them, then there must be something good that can come out of them now.
    Wow! I used to think I was the only one that had piles of work left unattended in the draft.

  20. I LOVE the idea of using a poll to overcome writer’s block! Totally going to try that.

    I sometimes find that doing a Creative Commons Search for images that relate to that dusty scrap of an idea will trigger a fresh rush of writing about the draft topic. Maybe I’m a visual thinker and seeing other related images helps me get a fresh start with the words!

    Thank you for the clever post! I’m energized again and those 27 drafts on my Dashboard better look out.

  21. Oh, heavens! I have about 20. Some of them ended up completed and sent as guest posts to other blogs, but the majority fizzled out because I couldn’t find the funny. Not to my satisfaction, anyway.

  22. I use drafts to write notes … if I try putting them anywhere else I lose or forget them! They tend to start as random words to jog my memory, or key points that I want to be making – eventually they turn into full blown rambles and are off to face the world!

    That said, there’s a lot of drafts which, despite all the buzzwords and triggers, sit patiently, while I carry on forgetting what the bloody hell I wanted to say in the first place..

    1. I love that idea Kerry. It sure beats writing it on the back of a supermarket docket or a paper napkin and later in the day you find you’ve chucked it in the composting bucket and it’s mixed with…well, the less said the better :-)

  23. I have maybe 1 or 2 drafts in progress right now, but do intend to publish them. I keep a list of ideas in my google documents, as a wish list I guess, and there’s maybe 20 in there! I haven’t done anything with those. They are all travel related and I would need to get out and travel, I guess, lol. Or should I write them anyway?

  24. I don’t have any drafts for my blog but on my hard drive there are drafts of stories that are ready to be revised, edited and posted, ideas to be properly formed, story titles and the little thoughts and bits of research I have saved in Evernote. I write to post. If I don’t finish I delete it. I have this thing where I keep the window [be it MS Word, Live Writer, Chrome, etc] open as long as possible until I either finish a thought completely or give up on it.

  25. it would be interesting to know the average drafts in the pending folders! i think mine is around 20,but reaching that folder in the daytime (slow internet) hours would be a painful task!

    i will try later and thow one out for the readers to finish! thanks for that suggestion! z

  26. I have about 59 in my drafts. Most of them will be finished and released through the next couple months. I am scheduling some to be released through the rest of the week. I have a couple of them that I can combine. Thanks to this post, maybe I will kick it up a notch and complete all of them!

  27. I don’t have too many drafts but I have lots and lots of post in Word Documents. I, too, almost always have something I can write about but now that’s it’s summer I’m trying to get a backlog so I can schedule a few posts at a time. I import them from my Word Document and then schedule them for a few weeks out. I’m trying to pace myself as well.

  28. That is true, sometimes we all do experience writers block. I may just be starring at my desk and computer or i may feel like doing just nothing, but i do prevail it by going on a stroll, playing some funny video games or just having a short nap .

  29. I just checked and I’ve got 36 drafts. Didn’t know I had that many. Most have gone on to be full posts, which was why I thought the number was more like 8!

    My most recent post is at least two drafts linked together.

  30. I don’t have any drafts in my dashboard. Because I’m terrible at finishing work, and because I usually completely kill myself with perfectionism, I made a vow here from day 1: every post, whether finished or not, whether crafted or fragmentary, would be published within 24 hours. So in real life I’m still limping along with too many unfinished drafts, but WordPress is showing the way to making them viable more quickly, with less shame.

    1. Remember the Pareto principle?
      20%=80% – 20% of our efforts produce 80% of our results so: is it worth all the agonising to get to perfection – & will you ever get to perfection?

  31. lol – and I thought the ‘craft “found poetry”’ was a function in the dashboard somewhere. :)
    There really isn’t one, is there…
    Dang – I thought I had a use for all my drafts!

    1. ah, but you do, Anne! Take the strongest lines from your drafts, and arrange them into your found poem. You’ll be delighted at what emerges; most likely it will have nothing at all to do with any of the original writing but will find its way into a third magical place

  32. I have no drafts in mine – I draft in Word, because I had a couple of nasty early experiences of losing chunks I was writing. And for the last fortnight weird things have been happening when I try to change from ‘text’ to ‘visual’. So I’m playing it safe and keeping the words separate, just adding links and pictures when I paste it into a new post in WordPress.

  33. Oh my, our draft folders share the same weightiness. I have 50 in mine, and I love each and every one of them equally. My draft section is like the “save for later” option in my amazon cart :) I go back to it everyday and am rejoiced at the sea of options. I pick one, click Edit and off I go. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with Drafts, but I know not everyone shares the same opinion. Whether we embrace it or avoid it, it remains a very useful tool. Sometimes, the magic only kicks in later, and I have learned to be patient and press “save draft” instead of pushing myself to publish right away. I hate forcing the completion of anything :)

    1. Sometimes, the magic only kicks in later, and I have learned to be patient and press “save draft” instead of pushing myself to publish right away. I hate forcing the completion of anything.

      +1 — I feel the same, and have a similar approach :)

  34. I love my drafts. They usually only take a few minutes to wrap up – which allows me to post something on the days when I have no time to write from scratch. They’ve saved me more than once in the last couple of months.
    \o/

  35. Reblogged this on From Slacker To Scribe and commented:
    Writing about why I can’t write can be so helpful. Another thing I’ve done is write dialogue between myself and boredom, as well as write a story about myself fighting against the force of Writer’s Block. It’s fun to get that creative frustration out of your system, and it brings on more creativity for poetry, prose, screenwriting, etc.

  36. I’d not even thought about using the draft option! When I find that I’m short on time, while writing a piece, I say to be continued or coming soon. But using the draft option, coming back to it and polishing it off..seems like something that would work great for me & my busy schedule. I’m so glad your tips come up in my reader..Thanks for sharing

  37. I have a few posts that I haven’t finished, as I can’t. They’re mostly about my past, and I don’t want to hurt or upset people. So they sit there. As I wait to finish them…

    1. Thanks for your comment — I have had similar experiences trying — and failing — to finish bits of memoir, when it didn’t feel right to finish them, or like you said, they involve other people. Sometimes those stories just aren’t finished. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting them sit. Perspective is a heck of a thing — someday, some of these posts may be ready. And if not, it’s always interesting to dive into points in our pasts in this way.

  38. I used to have several drafts, but I either finished or deleted most of them. Right now, I have only one, which I started working on back in March. It’s been mocking me ever since. The draft is about characterization, the kind of thing I’ve done many times before, and yet I just can’t quite make this one work.

    Maybe I’ll bang that one out tonight. I need to do it eventually, why not now?

  39. I have 7 sitting as drafts…all semi completed….my mind was wandering and I just could not gather my thoughts….or I felt it was not good enough to post…
    I look at them now and think if I were to post them my blog would go from my random day to day life to relationship based…not sure I want to totally revamp my blog in that direction…
    Although sometimes I wish I had started my blog with more focus…

    1. I have a couple drafts. I get ideas and like to grab them, shape them while the brainstorm is still there. I don’t publish that often since I want to create quality stuff. Sometimes along the way I find/take a more interesting photo so the draft gets changed in that way.

      I do finish what I begin and probably because I don’t need to ove-rchannel, drain my Muse so often. So blogging is fun creativity for me –with a purpose and focus for an audience.

      1. Thanks for adding your thoughts here. I actually don’t publish often at all — my current goal is once a month, if that, so I certainly let my thoughts simmer. Sometimes it takes months for me to finish a post.

  40. Ok true confession time. I only have one draft at the moment, and the most I’ve ever had was three. It made me too nervous to have them sitting there because I was worried I would hit the publish button accidentally. I did it once, I could do it again…
    But I do like the idea of having stuff to go back to because write now, no righting is coming to me… :-)
    Maybe I could mark them private?

      1. Right! Unless one has totally uncoordinated button-pushing tendencies…
        But I am curious; if a post is marked as private, does it show up on archives?
        Thanks for the quick reply

    1. Private posts aren’t visible in the Reader, feeds, or in any search, and I don’t think anyone but you (or other site admins/editors) can view them on your site’s pages.

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