Almost every writer I’ve spoken to recently is either a) feeling stuck, b) wondering whether they should abandon their project, c) ready to run for the border or d) all of the above. This is the first in a three-part blog series to help you figure out whether or not to continue your project and help you get unstuck.
How to Decide Whether to Abandon Your Project or Keep Going
As we talked about in the last post, writing crossroads often happen over summer, especially for those of us with kids. Even if you don’t have kids at home, summer tends to throw us writers off track.
How do we pick up the thread of that project that we were once so excited about, we wonder. Does that damn project even still matter? What if we’ve missed the boat? Lost our friggin mojo?!
Because here’s the thing: when we lose our momentum on a project, it’s easy to think we’ve lost our passion or motivation. We start to question everything.
But what if it’s simpler than that? What if we’ve just gotten off track?
When we get off track, our inner critic steps up loud and clear to tell us a) how much we suck, b) why we never should have even tried and c) why we need to give up Right. Now.
Fear is a natural part of the writing process, and oof, does it come up big and loud when we’ve lost our writing momentum.
Plus, the discomfort of restarting is real, my friends. That’s why it’s so important we step back and look at the bigger picture.
Getting Clear on the Big Picture
Let’s take a minute to tap back into your original excitement around your project. What was it about this particular project that got you so excited? Why did you want to write this book? What did you want your book to accomplish?
Now ask yourself how important this project is to you on a scale of 1-10. If it’s a 7 or below, ask yourself what needs to change to bring it up to an 8 or higher.
Does your current project need to be reimagined or tweaked? If yes, how so?
Maybe the scope of what you were trying to accomplish was off. That’s OK. Course correcting is a natural part of the writing process. A finished memoir, for example, is often quite different from the original vision.
Next, take a look at your current obligations, your lifestyle, who and what you are today and what you still want. (If you’re underwater right now, take some time to reground yourself, then come back and answer this question once you’re breathing again.)
Does this project still fit into your life? Is it high on your list of priorities? Does something else need to be taken off your to-do list in order to give precious, much-needed space and time to your book?
Or does this project simply no longer fit your life, your identity or your priorities right now?
If that’s the case, is that OK with you? Or does something larger need to shift?
Perhaps the timing of your project is off. (We’ll explore timing in the third part of this series.)
If you’re feeling pulled to give this project up, do a gut check with yourself. Is fear driving your decision? Is this project something you’ll regret giving up in 5, 10 or 15 years?
Here’s a short visualization that can help you decide:
Take a deep breath and let everything fall away for a few minutes. Take a few more deep breaths, imagining your worries melting away. Don’t worry—your to-do list will still be there when you return. For now, all you need to do is breathe. This is your time. Take a few more breaths, breathing deeply into your diaphragm, releasing on the exhale.
When you’re ready, imagine vines growing down your legs and into the earth. On the out-breath, release anything that doesn’t serve you right now—just send it down through the vines and into the earth, trusting the earth to recycle it. On the in-breath, breathe in nourishing, healing energy from the ground, sending it up your legs and into your body. Take a few more deep breaths in this way, or using any other meditation technique that calls to you.
When you feel grounded, take a few moments to imagine yourself in the near future. That writing project in question—the one you’ve been debating giving up—is now complete. Really take a moment and envision this image. Where are you sitting? What are you wearing? What do you see, taste, touch and feel?
Are you holding the book in your hand? What does it look like? How does it feel?
Now check in and ask your body for information. What messages are coming through? How does your body feel? Does it feel light and expansive, or tight and constricted? What is it trying to tell you?
Your body knows, after all. And that’s why we’re checking in with your inner wisdom today, to see what’s right for you. Not what anyone else is asking, not what anyone else wants you to do, just what’s right for YOU.
When you’re clear on what your body wisdom is trying to tell you, take a minute to write that wisdom down. Then post that message in front of your computer, where you’ll see it every time you sit down to write.
If you’d like to share what you’d learned, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
In our next post, I’ll share 15 ways Get Unstuck and Reboot Your Writing Project.
P.S. Options C and D at the beginning of this post were, not surprisingly, totally true and highly autobiographical. After a zillion, fun-but-chaotic play dates at our house this summer, I’m ready for some quiet!
On a more serious note, after 12 years of working from home alongside my work-from-home husband and our high-energy boys, I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I’m feeling pulled to do more in my writing and writing coaching work, but have been held back by my chaotic work/home/space. As I support more and more writers in telling their own stories, I’m finding it essential to be grounded in my own. Because of that, I’m looking into building a simple she-shed in our backyard where I can write and coach my clients in peace and quiet.
My next book is starting to percolate, and I’m dreaming of a calm, quiet space where that book can be born. Right now, this memoir-in-progress explores the issues of familial and cultural identity as well as the challenges of growing up in a deeply patriarchal culture—issues I’ve long grappled with as the daughter of Yugoslav immigrants, all the more relevant in our current political culture. What does it take to heal the complex and painful bonds we inherit so we don’t pass them on to the next generation? How do we heal? And how do we reclaim ourselves?
If you’d like to help support my writing and my work supporting other writers, please consider donating a few dollars at the GoFundMe campaign I’ve recently started. As many of you already know, making a living as a writer can be a challenging business these days. Once upon a time, publishers paid writers a living wage for their books, and before that, we had patrons. These days, most writers support themselves with other work.
That’s my challenge, too. Although my book The Secret Life of Grief recently won a Nautilus Silver book award (an award celebrating books that inspire and connect us as individuals, communities and global citizens) and the memoir is helping people shift the way they express grief, I continue to balance my own writing with book coaching and supporting other writers.
Healing through writing is my passion, and my goal in my writing (as well as my book coaching) is to show other folks that they’re not alone. Our stories matter.
If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a small donation here. To make this more fun, I’ve added a few different levels of support, but any and all help is appreciated.
As always, though, no pressure! Sending you lots of love regardless.