Should I develop this idea or that one? Should I finish this script or rewrite this other one? Do I work on a TV pilot, a feature, or do I write a stage play?
Welcome to this week’s tiny talk. Let’s discuss how to choose your next project or idea.
Many writers come to me for help figuring out what projects they should be working on. It can be exhausting to decide where to focus when most of these projects require six to 12 months, sometimes more, to see through to the end.
There’s always that little voice that says, What if I pick the wrong one?
It reminds me of trying to figure out what to watch on TV. Many new shows come out every day, and we still have a huge list of old ones we have not yet watched.
Like anything in life, we have to learn to manage our minds around decision-making, especially in this world of endless choices. Aside from putting all your ideas into a hat and picking one, here are two approaches you can try.
I’ll start with the pragmatic one and then share a simpler version that’s based more on “I feel it in my gut.” If you’re working with a writing partner or manager, I recommend using the pragmatic approach.
I learned this first approach from creativity author, Todd Henry, and I’ve tweaked it to be more specific to my clients.
You want to first identify your primary goals. If we’re talking about screenwriting projects, you want to get clear on what you plan to do with the project once finished.
Do you want to write a script that can win a contest? Do you want to write a script that could attract a manager? Write a script that an indie or smaller production company could option? Maybe you want to be a TV writer and focus only on that. Perhaps you want to write a script and shoot it yourself.
Or, it could be that you just want to write a screenplay because it’s on your bucket list, or you just want to see if you can do it. You want to try writing a screenplay to see if it’s something you want to pursue further.
So that’s the first step – write those main goals down.
Now take each idea and ask if that project aligns with one of your main goals. If it doesn’t, that’s okay; don’t toss it yet. Rate each idea or project on a scale of 1-10 in terms of how it aligns with your goals.
The second step is to take each idea and project and ask if it’s practical or not. Do you have the resources to complete the project? Do you have the time, the skills, the energy, the money to do it – and do it well?
If you find yourself saying, “Mmm, maybe,” you can look at that idea again a little later, but for now, simply rate it on a scale of 1-10 for practicality.
The third step is to ask yourself how excited you are about the project or idea.
Would it be fun to work on? Is it something you have a lot of energy for? Again, rate it on a scale of 1-10 for how excited and passionate you are about the project.
Now you should have a pretty good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your project and how they align with your main goals.
This brings us to step four. This part is kind of fun and re-engages your creative mind with the cold, hard data.
Say you have an idea that’s not too practical but aligns with one of your main goals and is interesting to you. How could you adapt the idea to make it more practical to execute? You may want to write the next Titanic, but you don’t have the resources James Cameron had. What can you do to make it just as compelling but on a smaller scale?
If your project is aligned with your goals and is practical but not very interesting, how can you make it more interesting or exciting?
If it’s easy to execute but you’re just not passionate about it, maybe it’s time to let that one go.
Go through each of your ideas and take a look at how they add up and repeat this process for each one. This creates a system for evaluating your projects and effectively discussing them with others if you have a writing partner or a manager who has a say in the projects you choose.
It’s the method I often use with my clients when they’re trying to prioritize developing their ideas and finishing projects.
Now it’s time for the more heart-centered approach to project-picking, and it’s the one I tend to gravitate toward.
You could skip all of the above and just ask one question:
If I were on my deathbed five years from now, would I regret not having done this project?
If the answer is “no,” why is this project on your list?
If you would regret not having done this project, why?
The answer to these questions will give you deep insight into the goals you have chosen, to see if they still align with who you are and where you are at this point in life.
My goals have changed drastically over the past decade. I often found myself working on projects that were meant to fulfill a goal that I no longer cared about. I was trying to finish them from a place of pride, shame, or guilt.
That is never a good reason to choose a project.
I hope this tiny talk about choosing ideas and projects helps you prepare for your next creation.
In the show notes, you’ll find a link to book a free consult, and we can work through this process together. It’s what I do, and I love it!
Ready to get on the playing field? As a creative life coach and screenwriter, I can help you take your idea from concept to final draft so you can finally get your work out into the world where it belongs. Book a free consultation and find out how we can work together. It’s what I do, and I love it!