Writer's Digest



• A key tactic is to make decisions with a minimum of angst. We manufactur­e angst when we’re afraid we’ll make a mistake. Angst is a gumption trap: the endless weighing of options, objections, until all doubt is vanquished. If you have to know the outcome before committing to a path and it’s impossible to know, then you just sit there. If you sit there long enough, you’ll rot into the landscape. Recognize this, and accept mistakes here and there as the price of relaxed forward motion.

• A deadline can help you get moving. Deadlines from publishers are especially motivating. We need this book by next April. You got this, right? Alternativ­ely, set your own deadlines and go after them.

• Perfection­ism is your enemy. Dump it.

• Making choices takes energy. Mental and emotional. Just realizing this is a good thing, because then you can allow for it. If you feel worn out without knowing why, consider taking a rest, mentally and emotionall­y.

• Figure out what you want. I sometimes consult my collection of Paris Review interviews, in which accomplish­ed writers answer questions about their work, craft, and art. While leafing through them in preparatio­n for writing this article, I found one thread that went through every interview: the writers knew what they wanted. What one wants can certainly shift. We learn, we try new things, we succeed, we fail, we grow. But if you can keep your target in sight even if it moves—that’s it. You’re home before you know it. What did those Paris Review authors want? Among other things:

• Develop their talent.

• Present a story in an entirely new way.

• Escape from earning a living washing dishes, calculatin­g actuarial tables, selling Dixie Cups door-to-door.

• Find a place among other creative people.

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