We’ve all got one. A New York Times best-selling novel… the one you haven’t quite started yet. The exercise video deemed the modern reincarnation of Jane Fonda’s timeless unitard-clad treasures in VHS form. That photoblog.
Side projects usually take the back seat to our day jobs, family obligations, day-to-day chores… But it’s time to take it on once and for all! Here are a few tips to get turn your side project into your main dish.
For purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on a novel-writing project.
Stop listening to writing experts.
There are millions of books out there that deeply puncture the most vulnerable spots in our souls in different ways. We all react and take in stories based on our individual lives. And all these wonderful authors do not write the exact same way. So stop listening to everyone who says you shouldn’t use passive voice or ornament your sentences with modifiers or excessive adverbial usage. Just write what you want, the way you want it.
Eliminate Internet ADD.
Damn Firefox for its glorious multiple tab functions. On a typical day, I’ll have two to three news sites, a blog or two, my Gmail, calendar, iGoogle, Yahoo! Mail, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, and other sites of note on all at the same time. I can’t help but habitually click between each one at milli-rates. When you want to work on your side project, X out those windows and stay laser-focused on what you want to do. If it helps, commit to a 30- or 60-minute time block where you promise yourself you’ll keep writing no matter what.
Write to the one person who you sincerely enjoy and feel most comfortable writing to.
My client emails usually go through 15 edits before I hit “Send.” And they’re usually very business-like in nature. No metaphors, no jokes. When I write to my best friend, however, that’s when my most creative, laid back, humorous writing comes out. So when you work on your project, pretend you’re writing to my best friend… errr, your version of my best friend. This is something writing experts have been saying for years and one tip you should listen to despite what I just told you above.
Take your own advice.
Imagine a friend complaining to you about how she can’t get herself to stay committed to her side project. What would you tell her? You’re a smart soul. Listen to your hypothetical self. She’s usually very wise.
Pretend that you’re a kid again.
When I was a 11 years old, I wrote a mystery novel I was elated about before I had even started working on it, while the characters and plot points were still brewing in my tiny little head. When I started writing, it happened very quickly, like a breath of fresh air. It was probably total crap, but I completed it and I was elated.
How was I able to accomplish that at 11 and I can’t do it now? It’s because at 11, I had no fear. No expectations of success. All I knew was that I was thrilled to write a book and I didn’t care about what happened to it, who would read it, and if it’d get published. I wrote simply for the raw enjoyment.
Now, at the jaded age of 27, I can’t get myself to write a novel because I’m constantly afraid that it will be total crap. I secretly hold megalomaniac desires of being a successful author whose book turns into a movie starring Natalie Portman. And I can’t start writing because I’m afraid I will fail miserably. And you know what, I probably will. My stories will probably be read by no one, and I won’t make a cent.
Well if that’s the case, who cares what you write, right? At the very least, I’ll have a story that I can laugh at when I’m 90, or one that my grandchildren can laugh at once I pass away. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it. And if it does happen to work out, I can humbly tell Natalie all about how I started.
It’s time to take your side project by its horns and take control. What will you do to make sure you follow through to completion?