I’m finding that the older I get, the harder it is to dive into a new creative project with the same enthusiasm.
“Enthusiasm,” if you don’t know, comes from a Latin root meaning “too dumb (willfully or not) to know how much shit is ahead,” and the sad thing about experience is that it gnaws away at enthusiasm like a heartworm. I miss the heady, ignorant days when I could say like an idiot, “Fuck yeah, the world needs a story about monsters who live in milk trucks!”
The world has made abundantly clear that it needs none of my shit, even the really good shit that I felt deeply.
I’m more okay with that than I thought I’d be, but it still means that it’s hard to choose what to work on next. Sometimes an idea grabs me and won’t leave until I do something with it, but more often, I have to commit to hacking away at something I choose.
So here’s the patented Will Ludwigsen Writing Priority Grid(tm).
What you do is list all of the things you could be working on in a column on the far left side. Then, in the other columns, you rate the story idea in several categories, like so:
Now, if you want to get fancy, you can weight the numbers as I have here. Maybe the saleability of a story is more important than, say, how interesting it is to you (though I rather hope not). In that case, the maximum score for interesting might be a three or a four instead of a five for saleability.
(You’ll notice that most of the numbers don’t go above three even in the heavier columns. Well, that’s depression for you. Also, I grayed saleability because that’s the one that seems hardest to gauge.)
But what if you add up the totals and you’re not happy with the result? Well, that tells you something, too: there’s a story you WANT to work on despite the cold numbers and you should chase after that.
You can add other columns depending on your priorities.Possibilities might be “How long has it been lurking in my mind?” or “How eager is my audience to read it?” or “How important is the editor expecting it?” I considered “How likely is it to fuck over Trump,” but I figured that one would be depressing, but hey, maybe you want to consider the social impact of your work.
This would be a good place to write something encouraging about the choice you’ve made, but all I’ve got is this:
You should probably weight that “fun” column pretty heavily because that’s the fall back when all else fails. If you change nothing but yourself with your work, that’s a lot more than most people do.