Monday, October 10, 2011

Too Many Projects

How many projects have you started and left dangling? Doesn't matter why. You lost interest . . . reached an impasse on new ideas . . . needed research . . . found a more fun direction. Maybe your life distracted you, and when you returned the project didn't seem that pertinent anymore. But you didn't want to throw all that work away. Just think of all the hours. So you file it.

How many files do you  have?

Whatever the reason your projects stockpile, you might find that unclogging your writing life might aid in actually producing something worthwhile. But how do you ignore all the time and effort you put into those ideas . . . all those words?

First, let's stop this craziness. Don't start anything new until you go through those piles of partial pieces. Get your house in order!

SORT - Line up all your unfinished projects. Then confront the list like you would cleaning out your closet, or your garage. You know how you set out three boxes - keep, throw away, donate? Let's do the same thing here.
  • KEEP - These are the serious stories you hope will become your trademark material. Your best. Your brightest. They give you chills when you reread them. They are precious.
  • THROW AWAY - These are the random ideas you started then couldn't find enough original thought to make them shiny, notable, and memorable. Listen, if you can think of no home for them, and you can't build up enough creativity to make them worthy, delete them. They are baggage. They served their purpose like a hallway in a maze - they took you in a direction just didn't work. 
  • DONATE- Nope, I'm not saying give your lesser value material away or suggest you write for free. Study these on-the-fence pieces for blog material. If they don't fit a blog either, then put them in the throw away box. 
PRIORITIZE THE KEEPERS - What's most important? What's second? What should you be giving intense attention to instead of reading blogs and how-to books? Pick your defining piece, push the others aside, and focus. Hopefully, your number is small - under five or six. If you still have a dozen or two projects, go back and resort again. You're still hoarding.

SET GOALS - Set dates and times and word counts. These will be your first order of business each day. Whether it's one hour a day, or 500 words, or a chapter, or pitching a market for your feature, note it on your calendar. When you've accomplished your task, then, and only then, move your attention elsewhere. But you should have a sole, driving force for your writing, with all else taking a back seat.

The Internet is glorious, without a doubt. But it's distracting. We think we have to stay on top of all the blogs, tweets, classes and releases, but we really don't. If we read such material once a week or fifteen minutes a day, we'd be fine. Our writing wouldn't regress. Our odds for publication wouldn't diminish. And we'd get a lot more writing done.

All that old stuff you're saving, however, is baggage. It clogs your mind, because you know it's there, waiting for your return. Delete it. Toss it. Shred it. Just clear your writing closet of all those pieces you know you'll never wear again. It's liberating, as if you've bought yourself freedom to write for real, with sincerity, with direction. 

There's nothing much more rewarding to a writer than clear, designated purpose.


Kelly Robinson said...

I keep all my article fragments in Google Docs, and just last night I was pulling up some old ones and came across one partially-written article. Across the top I had typed "I'm too bored to write this right now." I realized that, a whole year later, I still couldn't muster up the interest. I deleted it.

Hope Clark said...

We all do that! Just a lot of us don't delete.

Janet, said...

Good post, and so true. I have so many pots on the stove. I went through my 'stuff' a while back and found projects I had forgotten about, but were worth pursuing. And, as you say, the internet does get in the way sometimes of getting our writing accomplished, so I have slowed down a little with the blogging.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Great advice. Fall is a good time to tackle that kind of project, but it's so hard for me to hit the Delete button.

Karen Lange said...

I have a ridiculous amount of files. I was going to go through them this summer, but never got to it. Thanks for the reminder!

D.G. Hudson said...

A good reminder, Hope.

I review my hardcopy folders when they start to get too big. I review the online collection ongoing, but it's a tedious task that most of us put off. Thanks for the suggestions.

Lois Roelofs said...

A writing friend sent this post to me. As I'm writing now,I'm surrounded by eight piles of started projects. Thanks for getting me in the mood to start cleaning up!

Anthony J. Langford said...

Very timely post for me Hope. I currently have about ten projects, in various stages of completion. And I'm not ready to get rid of them, but I just don't have the time to do them justice. Maybe it's time to adopt your approach.

Thank you.