Overcoming My Fears As I Pick My Next Writing Project


Now that my draft of Rapunzel is finished, tidy, and put away to rest, I’m trying to decide which of my other books to work on next. Something I was really looking forward to — re-reading my drafts and picking my next writing project — is turning out to be an unsettling process. Instead of being excited, I’m anxious and afraid.

First, I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake. What if I pick the wrong project, a book I can’t finish? It’s happened before. I abandoned another novel after four years of work. I was in the middle of the fifth draft and got stuck. None of the drafts were complete. I kept starting over, but I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong, so I decided to set it aside. It was a painful time for me, because I loved the main characters and wanted to tell their story, and I felt like I was abandoning them to oblivion.

My last book took over three years to write, another reason to be anxious about my choice. Whatever I pick up next could be my main focus for years. Of course, I’d like to be writing faster, and I think I will. I’m learning from every book I write, and my improved health has helped me speed up. I wrote more than half of my Rapunzel draft in the last six months, and part of that time was spent on research. So my next draft, whatever it is, could take less time. But it’s still a big commitment.

I’m also being overwhelmed by possibilities. Some of my drafts are open-ended and have lots of options. Tough decisions need to be made, and as I am reading, I can think of what I might do, but do not yet know what to do. It’s hard to choose a project before I have the answers to all my questions, but I know I’ll have to.

Fortunately, I’ve run across great reminders this week to help me over these hurdles.

A friend was in a terrifying car accident and shared the things it’s taught her. She reminded me that most of what I worry about is not a big deal. So I will pick the book I am most excited about, that seems to have the most potential, and stop worrying so much if it’s the “right” one.

The painter Robert Genn’s post about the post-show blues reminded me that transitioning between big projects is never easy. We have to let go of what we’ve been passionate about and get passionate about something new.

Being between projects also means I’m not doing any creative writing at the moment, which puts me in Norman Mailer’s shoes:

The problem is when you’re not writing you don’t know if you’re lying fallow or if you’ll never write again. — Norman Mailer

The most important thing for me to remember is that I love writing. I know there are difficult days, and I sometimes struggle to find my way, but they are worth slogging through to get to the glorious moments when the ideas are raining out of the sky and I’m chuckling at all the trouble I’m causing my characters.

No matter which project I pick, it’s going to be a lot of work. Time to dust off my stubbornness and get writing.

4 thoughts on “Overcoming My Fears As I Pick My Next Writing Project”

  1. I understand the feeling. It’s hard to work on a project and not know what the finished product will look like. Choosing which project to focus on next can be overwhelming. We writers always have more ideas than we have time, and that can produce anxiety. Hopefully you can settle on a project that you’re excited about. And with every WIP, we’re growing as writers, so maybe you’ll find things start to speed up.

    1. You have more ideas than time, too? So glad to hear I’m not the only one with that problem! 🙂

      I’ve decided that even if I pick a novel that doesn’t work, I will learn something, and that’s really what this is all about. So I will just go with what seems like it will be fun and hope I can figure out how to do this. This will be my first time re-writing an existing draft, and I know there will be lots of room for learning and making mistakes.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. I’ve been thinking the same thing: excitement is key!

      Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind says: Why don’t you say that you are allowed one incomplete book, one time you give up, and that’s it. Otherwise, once you begin a book, no matter how much you hate it, you finish it. I think this is a good idea, because it makes your furnace burn strongly before you begin. You don’t just grab an idea willy-nilly and run with it for four chapters and quit. Commitment is a matter of pleasure. Let it be deep pleasure. And wait until you are sure…

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