I just spent a morning deep-sixing, round-filing and de-cluttering my desk, bulletin board, filing cabinet and blog. I also thinned out my InBox from 3,000+ messages to 329. Yesss!
Uninteresting, irrelevant links that have been hanging around since the 12th of Never? Gone! Pages that no one’s visited since the Ark made landfall? Outta here! Categories, media, polls and pics that are as fresh as last week’s headlines? Goodbye!
Talk about a breath of fresh air.
De-cluttering the Dead Wood
I hadn’t realized just how cluttered my desk, blog and brain really were until I de-cluttered the dead wood. (I meant to get to this the first week in January. Now you know why I gave up ‘New Year Resolutions’ for Lent. And New Year’s.)
Several writers I talk to have truckloads of works in progress at any given moment. They may have a children’s story, a poetry collection, an inspirational piece and a few news articles all going at the same time. Maybe more. Others are juggling memoirs, feature stories, a detective/mystery series and cranking out newsletters in their ‘spare time’ – both minutes.
I admire these folks. The ones that can keep eighty zillion writing projects in the air, like spinning plates, all at the same time without dropping something. Like themselves. On their heads.
Not One of Them
Know what? I’m not one of them.
I found that while my reading and writing interests vary widely – anything from Tennyson, Dickens and Dostoevsky to Richard Paul Evans, Anna Quindlen, Jane Austen and Charles Schulz – I have to narrow my focus and concentrate on a few writing projects at a time or else.
“Or else what?” you ask.
Or else… I don’t complete any of them. Sure, I may dash out a chapter or two here. Polish some dialogue there. Re-work a pesky characterization or rewrite an entire plot. But when I have more plates spinning than I can realistically focus on, my focus becomes splintered. Diluted. Wandering. I lose concentration and energy. And plates crash.
I feel better about myself and my writing when I actually finish one thing, publish or submit, rather than working on a bunch of different things, losing steam, jumping into something else and doing the same thing all over again. That doesn’t mean I don’t put something aside from time to time to let the ‘ole creative batteries re-charge. I do. But I still have to discipline myself to return to that set-aside project, hit it fresh, and actually make progress toward publication – rather than endless revisions – as the ultimate goal.
Are you with me?
So, here’s another non-New Year’s Resolution. I will raise my right hand and repeat after me: Focus. Focus. Focus. Prioritize. Instead of puttering around on umpty-jillion different projects at once and never really finishing one, I will work on the most pressing project – the one I’m most passionate about – first. Then I’ll pursue the rest in descending order according to priority.
In other words, I’m telling myself, “Self, you will complete that Mountain memoir and that summer in Texas story by this time next year even if it means raiding your private Hershey’s stash and keeping it under lock and key until then.”
If that’s not incentive, what is?
Now if I could just remember where I stashed the Priority List.
More on this in my last post, Dead Writing Days and Newton.
What ‘writing projects’ are you working on that are keeping you from focusing on and finishing your most passionate pursuit? Do you have a writing friend who needs help differentiating between productive creative pursuits and frittering their time away on fluff? Share this post so they can clear out their dead wood, too.
Up next: Andretti, Puccini, and 120 MPH With Your Hair on Fire.