I’ve noticed a pattern in my process over the last couple years. I like to call it the SHOULD DO WOULD DO book dilemma.
The SDWD dilemma occurs when I finish a project, and (after taking a few days to lose myself in vodka and cupcakes), turn to my ideas folder. Invariably, there are TWO (or more) projects waiting for my love and attention.
One project is the SHOULD DO. It makes sense. AND/OR I know how to write it. AND/OR I know there’s a book-shaped space for it in the market. AND/OR It’s in my comfort zone.
The other project is the WOULD DO. If there were no publishing industry, no expectation of sale, no concern for reception, nothing but me and my blank page, it’s the project I would write.
Now listen to me, lovelies.
ALWAYS CHOOSE THE WOULD DO BOOK.
Maybe it seems obvious now, but it’s not always. Whether you’re desperate to get INTO the industry or desperate to STAY in the industry, every time you come to the SHOULD DO WOULD DO moment, you will waver. You will look at the book deal announcements or at your bank account or at anything and everything around you and it will all seem like justification for picking the SHOULD DO book.
But here’s the thing (and I should say here’s the thing FOR ME because I can only speak for me, but this is my blog so we’re going to assume that you know that).
Here’s. The. Thing.
Even if your writer brain says to pick the SHOULD DO book (writer brains like to pay rent), your writer heart does not want you to. And your writer heart CAN BE A VINDICTIVE LITTLE BEAST.
If you go against it, it will betray you. It will block you and trip you and do everything it can to stand in the way of your writing the SHOULD DO book instead of the WOULD DO book. It will make the process feel like swimming upstream, and that will take the joy out of the journey because in writing THE JOURNEY IS THE JOY. God, it sounds trite but that moment when you totally lose yourself in the world and the words and you realize how powerful it feels to be a writer…that FEELING will be replaced by THINKING. Thoughts like I hope this sells. I hope this is right. I hope the book-shaped hole in the market doesn’t close before I finish etc etc etc.
And that is ruinous. Writing with those thoughts is ruinous, not always to the material, but to the process. To the joy.
Nothing in this industry is for sure, kids. NOTHING. You have to remember that. Writing the SHOULD DO book instead of the WOULD DO book means writing for the industry instead of for yourself and that’s dangerous and destructive and it can be done but it takes the joy out of the journey, which you can control, and gives it to the end game, which you can’t.
It is so tempting. I say that as someone at that very crossroads. Someone who would love to pay rent.
And someone who has been fighting with a near-blank page for two weeks, trying to figure out what’s wrong with me. Why my writer brain, which has given me the ideas, is now so resistant to seeing them realized. But it’s not my writer brain resisting. It’s my writer heart.
Because I picked the SHOULD DO path. I did it willingly. And now I’m changing course. I’m setting down the SHOULD DO and picking up the WOULD DO, and it is terrifying and maybe a bad idea (and that’s my writer brain begging, pleading) but the moment I opened THAT document, the WOULD DO one, I smiled. The moment I started typing, I lost myself. There was joy in the journey again.
I think it gets harder, as you travel down the publishing road, to pick the WOULD DO book. But I think it’s even more important that you do.
So whether you’re just getting started, or far along, this is my advice.
If you find yourself facing the SHOULD DO WOULD DO dilemma, always pick the WOULD DO book.