Indecision is the Devil for Writers

Indecision is my downfall.

If I know where I’m going next in my writing, it is no problem to sit down to my computer and get words on the page.  I can wrack up a good word count in no time.

But if I’m not quite sure what to write next, forget about it.  My brain gets fuzzy. I can’t seem to connect with my work. I don’t know what to do next and so more often than not I don’t do anything.

This goes for my to-do list as well.  Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I just stare at it–and then go look for an interesting knitting blog to read.  Or, better yet, a writing blog, because then I can pretend I am working!

So lately my process with my to-do list has been to make a decision on what needs to happen next.  In today’s case, it was writing this blog post. And then I just focus on that until it is finished and I can move on to the next thing.  Here’s the key: if other things crowd my brain for attention, as they do, I remind my brain what I’ve decided to focus on. Once it is finished, I can look at the other things clamoring away and decide what’s next.

Funnily enough, as I was pondering this post, this post came to my attention. It outlines a very similar process, called the Ivy Lee process for productivity. (It is worth heading over there and taking a look.)

So how does this relate back to writing? For me, it means always knowing where I’m going next so that there’s no time for indecision to take hold. Once I’m rolling on a project, this is usually not a problem.  But sometimes writer’s block does strike–and it’s always, always, always because I’m not sure where to go next.

Things I recommend to prevent indecision from stymying your writing:

  • If you start to feel blocked, even a faint whiff of it, free write. Take the last line of the last scene you wrote and use that as a prompt.  Or just write out the problem as a prompt.
  • Maintain a list of ideas in a dedicated notebook. Anytime you have a moment of indecision, check out the list. It might get you going again.
  • Don’t slavishly adhere to chronology.  If the scene you’re working on isn’t lighting you up, move on to another one.
  • Create a loose outline. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Mine is just a list of scenes with notes about each scrawled about each one. But it really helps those moments of indecisiveness.
  • If all else fails, just choose something and go with it.  Not sure if your character should jump off a bridge or ride a merry-go-round? Just commit and write. You’d be amazed how often this works.  And if it doesn’t, you’ll soon figure it out.

How do you deal with indecision that blocks you? Leave a comment!

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Photos from everystockphoto.