A lot of students and clients come to me for reasons that seem different, but are actually the same problem at their core: These writers are paralyzed with indecision. It’s usually about what to write, but sometimes it’s about how to write something specific. Maybe it’s both, which is really overwhelming. I’m going to go back to my trusty Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway to offer a solution: There are no wrong decisions. Especially here. We aren’t brain surgeons; these aren’t life-and-death circumstances. You’re simply following your creative impulses, and hoping perhaps that someone else will like them enough to publish them. That’s it. No one is going to die here. The worst possible outcome is that you’ll take longer than you had hoped. (You will almost always take longer than you had hoped.) Along the way, you’ll learn a ton about whatever form you’re writing — a nonfiction book, a novel, a screenplay, an article.
Everything is going to be fine. Now a few specifics from Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear‘s chapter about “How to Make a No-Lose Decision”:
1. Remember that you can’t lose. As I said, this is especially true for us writers; no life-and-death here.
2. Do your homework. Yes, you should make informed decisions, even if they can’t be wrong.
3. Establish your priorities. Again, we’re not trying to make blind decisions. Think about what you want, then make decisions accordingly.
4. In related news … trust your impulses. Listen to yourself. You know what you want and you know what feels right for you. I cannot tell you how many clients come to me wanting me to tell them exactly which novel idea they should choose or article they should write. I can do this to some extent; I can tell you which ones sound the most fleshed-out or which ones sound like they might have pitfalls that I’ve encountered in my own experiences. And I can help you sort out your own feelings, because I can usually tell when people are passionate about an idea, even if they’re feeling unsure. Passion is the number-one element you need to have behind an idea. Even the best idea is nothing in the hands of a non-passionate executor. This is why I stopped worrying about other people stealing my ideas. They don’t want my ideas. They want ideas inspired by their own passions. Trust where yours are leading you.
5. Lighten up. Seriously. Almost nothing is that big a deal. Calm down. It will be fine, even if it’s a “failure.” That’s the whole point.