If you could only finish one more project, what would it be?
I ask myself this on the regular. I find it’s a good question to not only recalibrate my workload but also remind me of what’s important to me. At present, it’s my fundraising for a Deep Water Well. After that, it’s getting my revision of Stronghold as well as my romance novel released. While the first item is arguably a semi-passive endeavor, the latter two are solely within my hands to achieve. So what’s stopping me?
A thousand other ideas, that’s what.
Haha. Any other writer out there knows this pain too well. You have far too many ideas and far little time to refine them, but they take up your mental energy regardless. You constantly want to get them right—often at the expense of the present projects in which you’ve already poured yourself endlessly and simply cannot get finished.
So, the above question has been an important one to me. But I think a second one is becoming just as important.
What project do those near me want me to complete?
This has become a big one. Why? Well, if your own audience is asking you for something, you really should give it to them. Folks have told me Stronghold can and should be better. It’s great, they say, “but it could use A,B,C.”
Or they tell me, “There’s a lot of strengths in To Retreat From Romance, it just needs a little X,Y,Z to get to that next level”.
Sometimes they say, “Remember that idea you had for X, you should really do that.”
These are not hollow comments or suggestions. These are the “demand” you have created for your work; and as a content supplier, you should fulfill them IF you want to maintain your present audience and expand it.
How does completing projects that current readers want expand your audience? Simple. When you give people what they want and make them happy, they tell other people. This is how grassroots fanbases grow. A person wants something, gets it, loves it, and tells others that they love it.
So if you are having a hard time sifting through all the noise of possible projects, new ideas, and finishing all those half-done works, ask two questions:
- If you could only finish one more project, what would it be
- What project do those near me want me to complete?
If any single project is answered by both, congrats. Dedicate yourself to that one. If there are different answers, that’s fine, determine which ones can be done, and start plugging away. If I can do it, you can do it.
But what about everything else? Those amazing ideas that you’re going to lose if you don’t spend a wee breaking the story? Well, here’s my suggestion: set aside either a firm amount of time a day or one day a week to dedicate to “next projects”. It’s that simple.
If you need to brainstorm to get your mind going, great. Take 10 minutes at the start of your writing time and dedicate to those new ideas before shifting back to your required work. If you are the type who likes to just sit down and pound the pavement, even better. But give yourself one day out of the week to relax and be free, doing the fun work of world-building or brainstorming. Get it out of your system, but keep it under control.
The sheer amount of ideas we writers have can become debilitating. Play cowboy, wrangle them. Put them in their cages, and let them out to walk in a controlled way. As you do, get yourself a pipeline, so that when “Project A” is finished, and you are continuing to grind on “Project B”, you can also begin to grind on “C” and “D” as time allows. The rest of the time, work on those other projects that fit the above answers. You’ll accomplish more faster, and get to move onto those other projects sooner than you think.
Oh, and a final word on this. If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely have that random day of inspirado or night when the muse simply will not rest. Seize those moments, because they are rare, and you need them to remind yourself how it feels to soar and sing. And let’s be honest, that’s one of the joys of this gig, isn’t it?
(1) determine which projects matter to you and to others
(2) Dedicate yourself to those projects.
(3) Give yourself some breathing room for controlled brainstorming that DOES NOT come at the expense of (2)
(4) Create a Pipeline so that when one of the projects from (1) and (2) are finished, a new work that answers are major questions can slide right into the rotation.
Bada-boom. Now get to it!