Let’s face it; time flies. 24 hours just aren’t enough to do all we desire. I find myself skittering after loose minutes like Scrat after his elusive nut. So, how do writers like me with so many story ideas and works in progress decide where to focus the time we carefully hoard away? I’m writing this post to answer this question for myself, but I sure hope my feeble words help you on your own journey to “Choose My Next Story” as well. If you’re not a writer, please keep reading. I do feel these steps can transfer over into life in general with any big decisions we frequently face. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity below to subscribe to my weekly newsletter for not one, but TWO freebies! One primarily for writers (though it could be tweaked to help with life choices) and another for readers. So, read on; and here we go!
As I approach a new opportunity and schedule for my writing time (more details on that vague statement in weeks to come), where do I focus?
As a wise man once penned, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (FYI: Solomon—the wisest man to ever live—wrote that in Ecclesiastes 1:9.) So, I knew someone else had to have experienced—and then written about—this same dilemma.
A-Googling I went and, within a few moments, I found myself on the site of one of my favorite authors—K.M. Weiland. You may remember I mentioned her in my post on podcasts. She is a gifted writer who graciously acknowledges the Giver of her gift and humbly shares her growth and knowledge with others. I read her wisdom in this post from a few years ago.
Now I’m not going to share all of her great advice here (you should definitely read the source!), but I’ll pull a couple observations and add my own thoughts and experiences to offer you 5 steps to making a wise writing—or life-in-general—choice.
1. Take a breath and just CHILL!
I’ll admit it; I have a tendency to overanalyze everything and freak out over decisions. That sometimes leads me to believe I’m a slightly—okay, okay … extremely—crazy person.
So, you can see how reading some of my own thoughts in another writer’s post calmed my goofy little heart. K.M. explained how this choice—which story to move forward with—isn’t one to take lightly. A hasty decision could lead to beating our head against a brick wall (or at least our desk) or flailing about in mirky waters for a few muse-drowning years.
Whereas I tend to camp out on the plains of doom beneath a sky of gloom, she actually presents hope:
“But if we choose the right story, we’ll be embarking on an exciting and fulfilling journey that will help us grow as writers and hopefully produce a book we can share with others.”
Yes, this is a big decision and, yes, it is important. I was right! However, fretting won’t lead me anywhere. I can’t force an answer any more than I can convince my daughter that Brussels sprouts taste good or my son that soap is required for a proper shower. All the yummy noises in the world and comments of the Pigpen cloud floating about our house can’t conjure that kind of magic and neither can a month of sleepless nights or a rapidly-forming ulcer produce a wise writing choice. Decision-making requires a calm spirit and focused mind. In other words, you have to chill out. This leads to my second step.
2. Your answer’s waiting to be noticed.
I can testify from personal experience that when I calm down long enough to listen to my writing soul, the answer I’ve been frantically searching for has been with me all along, quietly whispering, “It’s me, dummy.”
You can see this has been an ongoing battle for me as I share in this post about desiring a Literary Divining Rod. Keep on reading, Friend, because I may have just discovered one!
Back in August when I was fretting away and worrying over where to focus, my friend Mea Smith shushed me, sat me down and pointed to Ashlee’s book which had been patiently sitting next to me all along, waiting for me to notice. Step 3 tags closely behind this one.
3. When you reach the right decision, you will know.
I realize this seems like one of those super vague, infuriatingly simple statements; but it’s indisputable. Once you calm down and finally hear the guidance you needed, peace and surety will follow … along with a healthy dose of “How the heck did it take me this long?”
When Mea said, “It sounds like you need to focus on Ashlee’s book.” I opened my mouth, shut it and sagely said, “Oh!” In that moment, I heard it, saw it, knew it. End of worrying.
My months of fretting and countless minutes of rambling to Mea over all my concerns and second guesses and what ifs seemed a bit ridiculous during my calm after the “Oh!”
4. Sometimes we need tools to guide us to our “Oh!” moment.
With my choice a few months ago, I had a friend to listen as I talked things through. Support like this comes from critique or writing partners, good friends or significant others who are willing to endure our rambling thoughts and concerns or through writing groups either in person or online. When I reached this intersection again this month, I had my amazingly supportive husband who simply said, “I think you should focus on *story whose identity shall remain secret for the moment*.” (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what he said soon; but it happens to be the story I’ll be working on as you read this post.)
Alas—such a lovely word used far too rarely, don’t you think?—eager ears don’t always appear when most needed.
While they seem simplistic, pen and paper may be just what we need to see through the haze of uncertainty. We’ve probably all used the old pros and cons list trick. Which job to accept. Which house to buy—and pay on for the rest. of. our. lives. Who to date—that one didn’t work out so well at first for Ross! (Any “Friends” fans??) It may feel elementary, but those columns can really shed light on the dilemma in front of us.
Perhaps your pen needs a little extra guidance, though; and that’s where this writing freebie—my Literary Divining Rod, if you will—comes into play. I’m all about worksheets and questionnaires and anything that pushes me to think a little deeper or see things in a different way or brainstorm an issue. So, I created a PDF to help myself “Choose My Next Story” and want to share it with my subscribers as well. (Check back soon for my next writing update … while my husband gave me the answer, I didn’t listen right away and needed an extra nudge in the right direction. Yes, he knows I’m stubborn and loves me anyway!) This worksheet has helped me, and it may just part the clouds for you as well. I’ve already received a heart-warming email from one of my current subscribers who’s found it helpful, too! Those words of appreciation made my year!
Subscribe to my weekly email and receive the “Choose My Next Story” tool with an accompanying letter explaining how to get the most out of it. You’ll also receive a “Reader Response” that’s perfect to print out and include in your favorite A5 binder alongside the planner of your choice. My favorite comes from my lovely writer friend Charmaine Clancy. See this post for details on her brand new 2018 version and how you can get it for FREE! I started using hers a few months ago, and it works better for me than any planner I’ve ever tried (and I’ve used a fair number)!
5. Write your Story to life.
Sometimes I reach a decision, my path is mapped and bags packed; but I find myself hesitant to walk out my front door, overwhelmed at the adventure ahead. Where do I start?
Simply, one step at a time. One breath at a time. One scrawled letter or keystroke drawn into the next. One question answered at a time.
Go forward and create, good friends!
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Personally, I hope my adventure includes dragons. How about you?
I would love your feedback on these printables and I’d love to see pictures of how you’re using them! Let me know if they help you. Send any suggestions for improvements my way. Share this post with your friends, so they can subscribe and receive the goodies, too!