A Writer’s Roadmap Thursday Postcard
January 6, 2022
Let your stuff go!
Turns out I’m a hoarder. Not of material goods (ahem, unless we mean certain books), but of my own writing.
Fourteen projects, to be exact. Two novels (one a 76,000 word novel about which my agent kindly said, “it lacks oomph”), eight short stories, three novellas, and a poem about my mug.
Each piece of writing is a complete draft and was created at some point over the last five years. Some have gone through 2 or 3 drafts and are pretty polished.
But despite their surface glimmer, they all need deep work. I felt sure that one day I would dive back in and make them publishable, one piece at a time. I felt it would be irresponsible to start something else with all that old work lying around.
The problem was, there was another book I REALLY wanted to write. Only I’d been stopping myself, because I was raised to finish what I started. I didn’t want to be that person who just hops from project to project, leaving a trail of almost-done stuff in my wake.
Finally, one day in June, I asked myself, “Why? Why do I have to make everything publishable? Is that even realistic? What if those projects can just form part of my experience, like parties I’ve been to then left, or trips I’ve come back from?”
To my why, I heard crickets in reply. Those crickets were telling me that I didn’t want to try making old projects publishable.
Writing is too intense a pursuit to waste time perfecting stuff I’m not interested in any more. In fact, there’s a reason I’m not interested in it now. It lacks oomph, it’s meh, it’s not what it’s supposed to be…because there’s a wrong turn in it somewhere, or it was an experiment, or it was practice.
These experiments aren’t worth cluttering up my creative life and stopping me from doing what I want to do. And nobody is in charge of me now except me.
Unlike many people, writers have choices about what we work on. We can finish every project, or we can cut ourselves loose from the experiments and move on. We can focus on doing the thing we really want to do. And we can get ourselves to complete a draft of that, then reassess.
But we can’t move forward if we don’t move, period.
Are you hoarding any projects? If you are, what might they be keeping you from?
Lawrence Matthews shares the system that worked for him to write his first novel.
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