While the first day of Spring might be in March, the calendar flipping to April always signifies the change in season to me. And any time the weather shifts, but especially when it’s getting warmer, I want to roll up my sleeves, tie a bandana over my hair, and get busy getting rid of old stuff.
One bit of old stuff is projects.
At this time of year, I ask myself:
What project am I carrying around that I’m never going to do?
(That can be anything from a writing project to a craft idea to a household improvement! For our purposes, we’re looking at PROJECTS, not chores.)
Now, in order to GET to that question – what am I carrying around that I’m never going to do? – I have to do some pre-work called:
What are all my projects?
You might call these “open loops” but at the end of the day, they’re the things that you see every day, that your brain catalogues, and that you are forcing yourself to ignore.
Where have I told myself, “Kim, you’re going to do that, make that, create that” and then didn’t keep that promise to myself?
Where have I started something, in good faith that I’d enjoy it, that I’d finish it, that it would bring beauty and meaning to the world, and never finished it?
Then I make a list. Quickly and without succumbing to the woulda-shoulda-coulda’s.
Now, I ask myself, with as much honesty as I can:
Kim, are you REALLY going to do this? And if you are, will you do with with joy and pleasure? Or is it guilt and obligation?
Let’s look at a concrete, non-writing example:
I had a box of yarn. At least a dozen skeins in different colors. And knitting needles. At least eight pairs in different sizes.
I only know how to make one thing: scarves. (I’m using that loosely. I can knit but not pearl so I flip the whole mess around when I need to go the other way!)
While I like scarves, I only have one neck. I’m not a skilled enough knitter to make NICE scarves for gifts. I have all this yarn and all these needles and I honestly don’t know the “right” way to match the two.
But here’s the real crux of it:
I haven’t knitted in at least five years. Maybe longer. I shuffled that big plastic box all around my storage room, always thinking of the money that was represented in that box. But when I have time to myself to do a project, I never ever thought, “Oh! I’d love to knit a scarf!”
I was carrying this project around well beyond its expiration date. During one season in my life, it did bring me joy and pleasure. Now… it was guilt.
So I pulled out just one skein of yarn to save and all the rest went to Goodwill with my blessings. That project, that creation, was never going to be created BY ME so this is a chance that it can be created by somebody else.
(Wondering why I kept one skein of yarn? Because you never know when you need string RIGHT NOW to tie something up. It’s got a practical use and has zero guilt attached to it.)
Also going out the door are an oil lamp I was never going to make, wax that will never become candles, and a pile of scrapbook supplies that will never become layouts. I made the windchime from the wooden spoons I’d been collecting. I sorted the card supplies I use to send cards to my clients. I threw out the dried up tub of air-dray clay and bought a fresh one because I have an immediate craft project I want to do.
So, as you start this task, start with the physical projects that you can see. The fabric, the paints, the glitter.
Hone your “Am I carrying this OLD STUFF with me?” decision bone on real, tangible project-related STUFF.
Because now comes the harder part…
We’re going to do the same thing to your writing projects.
What writing have you been neglecting?
What chance for your book have you been carrying around?
Here’s the thing, my fellow author, guilt really can’t play into this. It can’t.
Years ago, I had an evening chat with a dear friend of mine. We were drinking wine (okay, I was having a beer!), and catching up about where we were at and where we were going. Of course, talk turned to books. Her book.
And she shared with me that this book she wanted to write would require hours-days-weeks-months of scientific research. Research my friend felt was required for the book but research she didn’t want to do herself – both because she felt not qualified and because she felt she didn’t have the time to dedicated to it. But without the research, the book couldn’t come into being.
I gently probed her:
WHY did she want to write this book?
And her answer was that it could prove that her methods for healing blocks were scientifically backed and that they worked.
Here’s the thing:
She didn’t REALLY want to write that book. She didn’t want to spend all that time, effort, and money to write THAT book. The research book. The “I’m proving it” book.
What she really wanted to do was write the book she wanted to write. The book that was fun and easy and yes, used all her healing knowledge but without the dry-as-dust PROOF. Just do the thing, get the reader the results.
I told her to think of it this way:
Do you really know how your microwave works? Like REALLY know? Does it matter how it works when you put in a mug of cold water and two minutes later pull out a cup of tea? Did the knowledge of how it worked (or lack of knowledge) impact your enjoyment of the tea at all? Even one iota?
I gave her permission to let go of a project. One that didn’t bring her joy and pleasure.
And once she did… she wrote her other book! And it went on to become a bestseller.
You have my permission to release the writing project that you’ve been agonizing over and let it go. You have my permission to pick up the one that you want to write, the one that is calling to you, the one that will fill you up, bring you joy, and bring you pleasure.
But there’s one last thing I want to leave you with:
Where does your book writing project intersect somebody else’s life?
Because I don’t want you to carry around guilt for projects left undone. We’re all more powerful when we complete projects that we love – and let the rest go.
This is a hard thing to bring up…
When you don’t write your book… are you HURTING somebody else by not sharing this message?
Is another person staying in pain, fear, frustration, loneliness, because you’re not writing?
Here’s how you can tell:
If, when you ask yourself about this book, you think:
- IF I knew HOW to write the book, I’d write it.
- IF I knew HOW to make it easier to do, I’d write it.
- IF I could find joy and pleasure in the writing itself, I’d find SO MUCH JOY in helping somebody else.
Then yes, my friend, you need to keep this project, write this book. (I can help you, BTW. Apply here to talk to me.) Because this book matters – it matters to you and it matters to the world – and you’re letting the unknowns of the writing process get in the way.
But if you’re thinking… well, I SHOULD write this book, but only so I have it out of the way to write the book I really want to write! Then in that case, let the “Should Book” go and get a move on with the book you want to write!
My darling author, I know this is a longer missive from me. I know it’s a bit more complicated to think through. And I know it may seem scary (or not like me at all) to tell you that it’s okay to let a book project go.
I’m here for you. I’m doing the process myself. I’m willingly and willfully choosing what projects I’m going to write and what I’ll let go. What was an idea that will be a candle in the dark for others, and what really wasn’t.
Leave me a comment. Send me an email. Let’s figure this out together so you can put your energy on the projects that serve you (in this moment) and free up your bandwidth from the stuff that doesn’t.