On a recent road trip with my husband, we got stuck in a terrible traffic jam. Because of construction, the highway was reduced to one lane for more than ten miles. But as we crawled through it, we noticed that the construction workers were only working on one tiny area. “Why did they have to block off the other lane for ten miles if they were only working on this one small spot?” My husband asked.
I rolled my eyes and agreed with him. It was frustrating. “Does it save on tax dollars if they set out all of the orange cones they need at once?” I asked.
“I think they do it because they enjoy watching people stuck in traffic for hours,” he grumbled.
“Maybe they like to have everything all ready before they actually do any real work,” I said. “So they set out the cones one day, then set up the construction signs another day, and then finally, they’re ready to actually pave a road.” And because I just can’t help myself, I immediately related our current situation to my writing career.
And I realized that there are more similarities than I’d like to admit. Like the construction workers, I feel the need to “set up” for days – or even weeks! – before I do any actual writing.
Sitting in that traffic jam, I attempted to count up how many article ideas and query letters I had sitting half-finished on my hard drive. I lost count at more than 30.
Yes, these stories were in varying states of “in-completeness.” Some stories needed a bit more research before I could send them out. For others, I wanted to study the ideal market just a little bit longer. There were several essays that just needed that perfect ending. Still other stories just needed me to locate an editor’s email address and they’d be ready to send out.
Yet, none of these stories had actually been sent out. Like the construction workers, I’d spent way too long getting ready to work and not nearly enough time actually working. And we all know that the only way to make any money writing is to actually contact editors with your writing.
I’d caused a traffic jam on my hard drive, and the only way to fix it was to finally finish and send out these ideas.
I started by listing these half-finished projects in order of how much time they would require to finish. I estimated that some would only take 15 minutes to be ready to send out, but others would require several hours.
Since I wanted to relieve my Traffic Jam of Ideas as quickly as possible, I started with the easy stuff first. In just one afternoon, I sent out six stories that had been languishing on my hard drive for months.
In the weeks since, I’ve made it a priority to re-visit my list and send out a few of these old stories each week.
And it’s really paid off. I’ve had eight acceptances in the last month – all from stories that I’d started months ago and never finished.
Relieving the traffic jam on my hard drive has caused things to go much more smoothly in my checking account as well.
Diane Stark is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her work has been published in 20+ Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith. Diane can be reached at DianeStark19@yahoo.com.
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