Writing Tip: Be Careful with Rabbit Holes

Don’t misunderstand me here. I’ve got nothing against literal rabbit holes. Rabbits are cute. It’s fun to watch them pop out of the ground, or disappear into it. Where could they be going? How far down do their burrows go?

The problem with figurative rabbit holes is you can actually follow the rabbit down into them. That might sound fun, but if you ever find your way out there will be consequences.

What is the Rabbit?

DISTRACTION. Your story, article, blog post, white paper, whatever, has a destination. There it is in the full light of day. Go after it and don’t stop. If a rabbit shows up maybe you take note of it, maybe you just ignore it completely. Whatever you do, don’t follow it.

Example: Let’s say you’re an HR rep writing about the importance of employees assessing their benefits packages during open enrollment. The rabbit might be taxes – there it goes! As quickly as it popped in your head, off it goes down into its abyss of irrelevant thought. You’ll be working on this article three times as long as you otherwise would have: double time to tackle two subjects, then back through to edit down to the first idea.

What is the Hole?

BURIED TREASURE. The hole isn’t always bad. The cute little rabbits down there have value, maybe as pets, maybe as food. (No offense to animal lovers. It’s just an analogy.)

Example: You’re a communications manager for a nonprofit service organization, writing about a client whose life your organization helped change for the better. Her story makes you think of a related story about a man who utilized a different service. You’re tempted to write about both, but you realize they really make two different points. You make a note of the other idea. When it’s time to come up with your next story you know just where to find it.

When you know your destination, rabbit holes are time wasters. When you’re not sure where you’re going, go ahead and explore. Just remember that at some point you just have to get it done.

(I’m done.)