Sarah finally has a few hours to herself. She makes a cup of green tea, and heads into the den with her laptop. Finally. Writing time. There’s just one problem–Sarah is working on five different manuscripts at once. Each in a different genre, each at a different stage of completion. Which one to work on? How to get organized? Will she ever finish anything?
Sometimes it’s just easier to close the laptop and turn on the TV.
I have met so many writers like Sarah, who really want and need to write, but who somehow get stuck when it’s time to focus and actually start writing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing in multiple genres and having many projects on the go. If it’s interfering with your writing flow, however, then you need some new tools in your writer’s toolbox to help you manage your abundance of words. Consider the six key questions below.
Are you the CEO of Writer, Inc?
Many people go to work every day and operate as part of a large organization, within which they have a fairly well defined role to play. Each worker knows what to do, and who to answer to. In contrast, writers are essentially self-employed. Each of us is the CEO of our own writing business, and we get to make all of the decisions. It’s a wide open playground, and no one is telling us what to do. Such freedom can be unsettling and exhilarating, both.
If this sounds like you, you may have to consciously learn some new work habits as you step into the role of leader of your own creativity. Consider yourself an apprentice—learn from writers who have gone before you, and give yourself permission to experiment as you learn to step up to the leadership of your creative self.
Are you allowing yourself to practice and experiment?
Creativity is not a linear practice. Most writers need the freedom to experiment and play as they create. This means that they may try many different subjects and genres in their writing. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Play time encourages and unlocks our creative genius. Plus, nothing we do is ever wasted. Projects that you start and abandon today may come back in a few months or years and find a home, often in unexpected ways.
Are you planting seeds?
Do you have any manuscripts that are partially or completely finished, and just hanging out inside a folder on your desk or computer? I think every writer does! Many times these projects are like seeds that have been planted, but which have not yet started to grow. Trust that when the time is right, you will come back to these projects and complete them, publish them, or transform them into something new.
It’s been my experience that when I leave a project in the parking lot, so to speak, it’s because the time is just not right for that project to come to completion. There are skills I need to learn, or ways I need to grow, that will be required to take that piece to the next step. It could be as simple as learning to have enough faith in the value of my work to actually send out a confident query letter.
One way to tell if you have a project that needs to percolate for awhile is to notice whether there is any energy in your belly to tackle it. Your mind might say, “Hey, what about this book?” but if you don’t feel any excitement or forward momentum, then it’s just not time.
Are you connected to your own intuition?
Each of us has a guidance system that is more reliable than the one in our minds. I’m talking about your intuition. Intuition lives in the belly brain—the brain that science is beginning to believe is more powerful than the brain in our heads! We tap into that intuition when we suddenly get an idea for a new piece of writing, or when a person we meet immediately makes us feel comfortable and safe—or the opposite.
That inner intuitive voice is a non-logical way of knowing that can really help us make creative decisions. So if there are too many projects facing you, I suggest you put your feet flat on the floor, close your eyes, and pull your intention into the core of your body. Let your mind drift across the projects you are working on. Ask, “Wise self, what should I focus on today?” The answer may surprise you—I just got directions to spend today cleaning my house. If you could see it, you would know why.
Another way to pick one project is to notice where your excitement is. If you could do Project A or Project B, but A leaves you uninspired, while you can’t wait to get to work on B, then the choice is clear. It’s important not to second guess yourself, or say things like “But I’m supposed to finish A first.” Trust yourself, and trust the guidance you are given.
Are you grounded?
Many writers are scattered and fragmented because they are not grounded. When you are grounded, your personal energy is anchored in your body, and your body is connected to the planet. If you are ungrounded, your energy is floating around outside your body, often above your head. Ungrounded people are at the mercy of their minds and their emotions, because they aren’t anchored in to their wise selves.
So, how to ground? This is something I have written about a lot, and I address it in a number of ways in the Creative Flow Toolbox. Until that comes out (it won’t be long), I suggest you listen to my recorded meditations, which you can find at thehealedwriter.com under the category Recorded Meditations. Start with this one.
Are you reluctant to trust your creative process?
There’s one more reason that you might find yourself juggling too many projects and not making progress on any of them, and that’s a reluctance to trust. You may be reluctant to commit yourself to any one project and follow it through to publication because of fear that you aren’t good enough. You might be unsure that you can really do it, that you have what it takes to succeed and be read. Or you might be reluctant to take the leap and open up your heart to your true creative self. You might be reluctant to commit to your creative self. I understand that fear—our deepest creativity comes from our higher selves, and opening to the genius within can feel scary.
Whichever of these causes resonates with you, be gentle with yourself. Learning to access your creative genius and share your work with the world is a process. Give yourself the time you need to learn, play, and grow.
Which of these solutions resonated for you? Are you still stuck or are you back in the flow? Leave a comment below this post to share what worked for you or what challenges you are still facing.