When I wasn’t traveling this summer, I was tossing. I’ve had this urge to get rid of old stuff—files, books, clothes, furniture, and even a few pairs of shoes. As I toss (yeah, I’m still at it) I know I’m making room for something new. Only, I am not sure what it is yet. I have a few writing projects rattling around in my brain, but I am not sure which one I will choose. It’s a perennial problem for writers: choosing what to write next. We have so many good ideas—how can we choose just one?
After years of working as a professional writer, I’ve noticed that choosing to work on only one or two projects at a time makes it possible for me to actually finish more writing projects. When I divide my time between too many projects, nothing gets done.
So how do you know which project is the right one? Here is my handy dandy three-step process for sorting through the noise in your brain and choosing the project that’s right for you. Before you begin, write the titles of each of your potential projects at the top of a piece of paper.
1. What purpose will this project serve? As writers, our writing projects can support our careers in different ways. Some projects will help us earn money now and others have the potential to support us in the future. Some projects sharpen our skill set while others expand our reach. Look at each of your projects and ask, “What will this writing project help me to do?” Underneath the title of each project, note the purpose that each project serves.
2. What project fits your life right now? If you’re going through a major life change, attending school, or working on a big venture at work, this might not be the time to take on a huge writing project. Take a look at the projects you have listed along with the purpose each will serve. Consider the shape of your daily life—the time and energy you have available to write. Is there any project that does not fit your life right now? Write “no” in the column under the project. What projects and purposes do fit your life right now? Write “yes” or “maybe” under the ones that are still contenders.
3. What does your gut say? I make decisions with my gut. Not everyone does. Some people collect data, make lists or consult experts. All of these are good things to do—but in the end, you need to write the book that you want to write. After working through the last two steps, you no doubt still have several worthy projects to choose from. Answer the following questions quickly. Do not over think your answer. For each question, mark a star or put a sticker by the project that gets your yes!
*Which project am I passionate about writing right now?
*If I could have completed one project by next year at this time, I would write _____.
*Which project energizes me?
*Which project would I write even if no one read it?
*Which project can I talk about even when I’m tired?
*Which project would be most fun for me?
After doing this process, usually one project comes out a distinct winner. If not, put aside the decision for a few days. Pay attention to your thoughts, conversations, and dreams. Notice what ideas, articles, blog posts and books come your way. No doubt, by the end of the week you’ll know exactly which project you need to work on.
Your turn: What tools have helped you choose the right writing project? Leave your comment in the blog below. Also, if you’re looking for the PERFECT visioning tool, check out my Wednesday Writing Prompt tomorrow.