My name is Julie, and I'm a recovering plate-juggler.
And by "recovering," I mean I couldn't even get my 30-day chip in this program. I have serious trouble with taking on far more than I can handle, and my list of ideas and projects rivals St. Nick's naughty-nice list.
Are you in the program too? How well are you doing?
Why We Need to Say No
Most writers have more story or marketing ideas than they have time for. If we don't intentionally prioritize, the urgent or the easy or the involves-others projects will weed out what we most want to accomplish.
Last week, I was excitedly talking to someone about a new opportunity, and it wasn't until a day or two later that I realized I needed to pass. As cool as their idea was, it would take time and effort away from other projects I'm doing—projects that are more meaningful to me.
We simply have to say "no" to some projects so that we can say "yes" to others.
Do you even know how much is on your plate? You may not realize how many projects you've taken on if you haven't taken stock.
Take inventory of what obligations you currently have, what projects you're working on, what you have planned, and what you'd like to do. You can make a list, a visual map, or a spreadsheet—whatever works for you. Also consider what other daily activities engage your time.
Are you spending time where you really want? What could you offload? What could you add from your "like to do" list instead?
Get a clearer picture of where you are now to figure out where you want to go.
The Principle of One In, One Out
For the last few years, I've tried to follow the principle of "if one comes in, one goes out." So to take on a new project, I must push an existing one off my plate. That could involve finishing a current project—book published, conference over, etc.—or letting go of something I'd planned to do.
We have finite resources. There's only 24 hours in the day, 7 days a week, and you have to sleep, eat, and groom yourself in there somewhere. (Though grooming may be optional when up against an immediate deadline.) Unless and until you figure out how to clone yourself, you have to work with what you have.
If you're already up to your eyeballs, one more project will drown you. Commit to the principle of One In, One Out.
Or, for some us, it should be One In, Two Out. But let's start with a step in the right direction.
How do you decide what comes in and what goes out? What if you love all of your current projects AND the one that's just come up?
Ask yourself: What's my your overall writing goal? Why am I writing?
Not every potential idea or project will meet your goals equally. For example, if you want to make X amount of money in the next year, you prioritize tasks that could bring immediate sales—like more books out the door, marketing new or existing books, redesigning your website. If you want to publish traditionally, you might prioritize polishing your best manuscript, attending events with agents and editors, getting submissions out. If you want to develop your craft... Well, you get the point.
Look at each project honestly and ask how it furthers your primary writing goal(s). If something sounds good but doesn't make the cut in this analysis, cut it for real. Make space for what matters.
Involve Your Peeps
If you still feel overwhelmed and don't know where to say no, ask the people who support you—family, friends, fellow writers, therapist. Whoever has your back in this writing gig, request their feedback on where to focus your efforts.
My husband has been invaluable to me in this. I will often go to him and say, "Hey, I have this great opportunity!" Almost before the words leave my mouth, he's smiling but asking, "So what you going to give up to do this new thing?" Hmm. Good question, sage fellow.
Then I process through my options with him, close friends, siblings, or whomever is the best one to ask on that particular project. But I'm forced to think through the pros and cons while hearing their great advice, from a perspective often more objective than my own.
So if you're on the fence, involve your peeps. They'll help you land on one side or the other. (Even if they have to push you.)
Do you have too many projects up in the air? How do you decide what to keep and what to quit?
Julie Glover writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® and is now on sale! When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.