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A Resolution to Prune

Cheryl's Musings: A Resolution to Prune

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


A Resolution to Prune

Some people have trouble decluttering their closets. I have trouble decluttering my writing space, both physical and mental.

The problem is that every project I work on leads to three others. That's great, in theory. Lots of writing conferences feature talks where successful writers explain how to spin multiple articles from a single pile of research. In theory, it's an efficient way to gain maximum benefit from writing and research time.

It doesn't work for me. By the time I've finished writing one article, I've usually started another and have a list of three others I really, really want to write as soon as I find the time. If I'm trying to leverage research from that first project to write a few more articles, they just add to my list. Meanwhile, I have an office filled with books to read (or re-read;) scraps of paper with images, descriptions, phrases, characters, character traits, names, words, story ideas, snippets of poetry; and a list of nonfiction book ideas, nonfiction article ideas, picture book ideas, fantasy world concepts, and poetry-in-progress.

Did I ever mention that I NEVER go to idea-generating talks at conferences? It'd be too much like taking an alcoholic to a wine-tasting. I HAVE ideas. I have too MANY ideas, which can be just as much of a problem as too few.

That's why my 2008 writing resolution is to prune my writing life. Sometimes, my mind becomes a tangle of impulses and ideas pulling me in different directions. Like an apple tree in spring, shooting up suckers in every direction, all reaching for daylight. I like the analogy because it carries further: the tree doesn't have enough resources to nurture all those suckers into full-grown branches. Similarly, I don't have enough energy to foster all my different ideas. I need to prune some of them--most of them--so that I can focus my resources on just a few.

But how do I choose which few to nurture? Cynthia Morris, a local writing coach and conference speaker, says to make a list of ideas and choose the ones about which I'm passionate. The practical side of me says to drop those concepts that aren't as salable and focus on the ones that have unique twists, something that makes them special.

From a business perspective, I will be most successful as a writer if I focus on writing what only I can write. What unique experience, perspective, or knowledge can I bring to my writing?

It's going to be tough--all those ideas are my babies, waiting to be written. (Ha! How's that for a mixed metaphor?) But when I try to do everything, I end up accomplishing nothing. It's time to prune boldly.

Besides, if I over-prune my sprouting writing ideas, I can take a lesson from the apple tree in my front yard. Last year, it received a pruning I thought would destroy it. Instead, the tree is healthier than ever--and covered with new suckers that probably need to be cut back again. I'm willing to bet that writing ideas are the same: no matter how ruthlessly I prune them, it won't take long for them to return!

:) Cheryl

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