As part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, we write a blog post the first Wednesday of every month on a particular topic. The goal is to encourage and support one another. This month’s question is, “What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?” It’s a great opportunity to answer a question I frequently get, “Did you ever publish your novel?”
I finished the rough draft of a mystery about a year ago. It’s sitting in my scrivener files. A printed copy that I began editing is in a three-ring binder on the shelf of my desk. I love the story. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think about it and I get an idea. So, I pull out my phone and type the idea in my notebook app.
Why is it collecting dust on the shelf? Did I get bored with it and have to move on to something different? Did I run into a case of writer’s block with it? It’s there because I knew that I had to focus on a different project; one less enjoyable; one emotionally more difficult.
Four years ago, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It was quite a learning curve; figuring out how to live with cancer, how to help our children live with it, and how to live well in spite of cancer.
I began blogging about it a couple of years ago, hoping to add to the understanding of family, friends, and those on the periphery of our lives. I felt inspired to make a difference by sharing the knowledge that had been so painstakingly gained.
So, as I was editing the rough draft of that mystery novel which now resides on shelf, unfinished, I decided that it was time to instead focus on writing a series of books about living with cancer. Sometimes, it feels like I’m slogging through mud. It picks at an emotional scab every time I set my hands to the keyboard, to write about our experience. Part of me always worries that if it’s this difficult for me to write the book, our people can want to read it?
Cancer isn’t a fun subject. It’s not fun to talk about. It’s not fun to read about. So, why do I do it? I do it because one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. It’s one of the worst, moments in a person’s life, hearing the words, “It’s cancer.”
Something good has to come out of this experience. I recently published Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer. I’m driven to get the rest of the books in the Facing Cancer series, published in my husband’s lifetime. Unfortunately, I may not have very long.
I think that the choices we make regarding the projects that we work on as writers are very personal. We have to decide what our priority is. We do that on a macro level, planning out the next year or the next three months. We do it in bits and pieces, planning our day, or even the next hour. The most important thing is to make those decisions consciously, rather than allowing ourselves to drift through time, only doing whatever’s set before us in the moment.
When I’m done, I’ll take that manuscript off the shelf, and be able to disappear in my made up world.
I would challenge you today to do some goal setting.
- Write all of the projects you have going and even the projects you haven’t started.
- Which ones are urgent?
- Which ones are timely? They make sense for your life right now.
- Which ones would be nice to do, but might be better tackled at some point in the future?
- After analyzing your list, pick a #1 and a #2 project. These are going to be your project for the next year or the next 90 days, depending on how big they are.
- If your project is huge and will take a year, break it up into 4 sections. Those will be your 90-day goals.
- Create a list of weekly goals that will help you to achieve your 90 goals.
- Now, schedule it! It’s so easy to let things slip through the cracks if they aren’t scheduled.
Start right away in the morning. Whether it’s a fitness goal, a writing goal, a business goal or a spiritual goal, if you don’t ensure it’s done in the beginning of your day, it will be easy to lose your focus.
I find that if I sit down at my desk, I can get motivated and focused. What are your goals? What will it take to attain them? What do you need to set aside in order to make it happen?
Heather’s husband, Dan, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012. Since then, Heather has focused her writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. Her goal is to help people face cancer with grace. Visit her website at heatherericksonauthor.com.