Ever sat at your computer screen and wondered what project to work on?
The last few weeks — since the launch of What Happens in New York — I’ve struggled with this. Initially I though I’d go straight into What Happens in London and finish the first draft, but the further into it I got the more I felt like I was drowning. There is A LOT going on in book two, and after the burn out I suffered after book one, I knew I couldn’t rush it.
So I thought I’d work on my non-fiction instead.
I completed a first draft of Productivity for Writers, then felt lost again. I couldn’t go back to it yet — I needed to do more research — but what next? My email course? A poetry collection? A What Happens in New York spin-off? Back to What Happens in London? I couldn’t decide. My mind was pulling me in so many directions I didn’t know which to take.
Know the feeling?
I talk a lot about relaxing. Unfortunately, having had stress listed on my medical record for almost a decade, I know about it well, and I try to protect everyone around me from going through the same thing. The physical effects. The psychological effects. And how it can affect your writing.
The best thing to do when your writing stresses you out is to relax.
Take a bath. Read a book (unrelated to your writing). Do some exercise.
(I’m sorry. I hate exercise too, but it DOES help. I only say it because it’s true.)
Whatever your way of relaxing is, do it.
You’d be surprised how many good ideas you’ll have when you stop overthinking it.
Plan out every idea you have.
What’s the plot for your novel?
What order are the poems going to be in in your collection?
What topics will you cover in your non-fiction book, and in what order?
Plan them all to death.
Then ask yourself this: which project sounds the most fun?
Writing something you enjoy is important. If your heart isn’t in it, the reader will be able to tell.
If you care about more than one project just as deeply, ask yourself this: which one has the highest ROI?
Making it about money sounds cold. Perhaps it is. But if you’re an indie or self-published author, you need to think as much about the money as you do your creative license.
If you’re not published yet, the question still applies. There’s more money in a series than standalones, and more money in non-fiction than any other genre. Poetry doesn’t sell many copies, which is why it’s more expensive. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is more expensive because sellers know people will pay the price to feel enlightened. Escapism isn’t such a profitable business these days, so fiction — despite requiring the most work — sells for the least amount of money. It’s silly, really.
As for me…
I’ll be honest with you — I keep changing my mind about which project to focus on. I’ve recently said I’ll split What Happens in London into two books; doing so has made writing it feel considerably less daunting, and frankly, more attractive. It may be a case that I split it in two the sew it together later on, like different parts of a dress, but we’ll see. The important part for me is that none of the characters get neglected.
My poetry I’m working on slowly. I haven’t designed a cover for The Monsters in my Head that I like yet, so I’m in no rush with it.
My email course and Productivity for Writers, meanwhile, I’m in the middle of researching. They are my main priorities, but now that I’m past the first draft stage I need to do lots more research before I return to it.
If anyone has any books on productivity to recommend I’m all ears (or eyes?)!
As for you…
Dealing with the overwhelm that comes with having too many ideas can be difficult. But think yourself lucky: I’ve had far more people come to me saying they have no ideas than saying they have too many. Having a surplus of ideas means you have plenty of projects to be working on, and the more you work on them, the happier you’ll feel.
Spend as much time as you can working on your ideas, and be sure to pick one project to focus on. That way you can get it out faster and move on to the next one, not split your focus and have them all take three times as long.
Ask yourself the questions above, and remember that you’re one of the lucky ones: too many ideas is better than no ideas at all.
Check out more excerpts from Productivity for Writers: