I’m notoriously commitment-phobic. (Though I prefer to call it “indecisive,” or say that I like to “weigh my options.”) I don’t just mean in terms of relationships, though it did take me six years of dating to come around to the idea of marrying my now-husband, despite the fact that I had known him for at least a decade before that. I’m the kind of person who can’t walk out of a bookstore with just one book, because what if it’s not good, or when I sit down to read it, it turns out I’m not in the mood for that kind of book? I like to have backup plans. I like to have options.
When it comes to my writing, I’m the same way. I’ve always got a handful of new project ideas swirling in my head. I start one, then abandon it to work on another. It’s not that I don’t want to finish the first, but… Well, they’re good ideas, and I don’t want to let any of them go.
But the truth is, you can’t play the field and expect to be in a monogamous serious relationship at the same time. You can’t juggle a novel, a memoir, some essays, short stories and a blog and expect to make a lot of progress on any one of those projects. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to take a break form one project and work on another – but not if you end up losing sight of your progress on the first.
This morning, in an attempt to commit to one project, I made a list of all of the writing project ideas/beginnings I had. I came up with seven. Seven! Even I wasn’t aware of how many projects I had swirling about in my head (and on my hard drive). Two novels, two memoirs, a book of essays and a book of short stories. Oh. My. God.
So I wrote brief synopses of each project, and it soon became clear which were just ideas, and which I really wanted to move forward with. Writing a description of each helped me see how viable (or not) each project was, as well as how well thought-out each one was. Some of the ideas clearly needed more time to simmer.
I absolutely recommend this exercise if you’re waffling, between projects, feeling an overflow of ideas, or just not sure what to do next. I quickly saw two projects rising above the others. One is a novel, one is a book of essays. And I committed to working on – gasp! – one of them. I revised an essay this morning, and it felt really good to be attaching myself to a project, to focus, and to move forward.