What’s Holding You Back?


The moment I step away from my computer (aka, every time I stop working and give my brain a break), I get a new idea. A lot of times we find ourselves wondering why all our ideas find us in strange places: in the shower, making dinner, cleaning out the garage.

Places are full of inspiration, and there’s no doubt location plays an important role in the new ideas we stumble upon when we move from place to place. But it’s mainly the act of stopping, of looking away from a screen long enough to let in the new idea that’s been waiting in the doorway, that unites us with new ideas and starts bringing them to life.

As I’ve been working on my book the past few months (no, I’m not done yet), my workouts, and yes, even showers have been filled to capacity with new ideas for stories. Most of them stories and projects other than my current one. I’ve had ideas for short stories, songs, even an idea for a musical (it may or may not have involved coffee).

Yet I haven’t written a short story in over four years, all my song lyrics (when I remember to write them down) consist of four-line stanzas or less, and though I’ve written one T.V. show pilot (at least I think I finished it) I have never written a script for a play or movie or musical, ever.

I think an important quality of successful, influential writers is their ability to write in more than just one genre. There are a lot of stories out there, but there’s never just one way to tell them, and sometimes some stories are better told, for example, in the form of a play than they might be in the form of a book. I don’t want to just sit around and write novels: I’ve been saying that for a long time, and that’s why I write articles and occasionally write scripts for videos that may or may not ever actually become things.

But I love writing short stories and songs and plays, everything. So why am I stuck in this rut of writing a book, trying to finish this book, wondering when I’m finally going to be done with this thing, when I could easily do my daily novel writing, open a blank document and start writing something else?

Maybe you’ve been here, stuck between what you’ve already accomplished and what you hope to achieve someday. So let me ask you: what’s stopping you from taking that step, moving away from what you’ve already done, finishing what you’re doing and moving on to something else?

People tweeted about George R. R. Martin during the Emmys last night. “Please go home after this and finish the book already,” they said (or something to that effect). I wrote a really insensitive Dear John post a few months ago about the same thing, and I’ve left it up and am linking back to it now because I don’t try to hide my mistakes. To show that no matter how many posts you write, there’s something to learn from every new thing you do, whether it was a good idea or not.

I understand now, why it takes good writers longer than we’d like to move forward with their work. It takes a lot of effort to look back at what you’ve already done and decide you still want to go back and do the exact same thing, on top of everything else you still want to do before your time in this world is over.

What’s holding you back? Maybe you just don’t know what the next thing will be. Maybe you don’t even know if there will be a next thing at all. Maybe we’re just meant to do only one thing at a time, because we’re human and we can only do so many things well at the same time.

Or is it something else?

Are you ready to plow through it, to finish what you started and dive right into the next thing?

Or did you not even know you were standing in your own way of whatever’s coming next?

Image courtesy of Flickr.com.

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