Yeti shaving and the project kill file

by Suw on September 16, 2009

You know about yak shaving, right? All those countless little tasks you tell yourself you have to do before you can get started on the thing you really need/want to do?

“Oh, I would start writing my new book but I need to buy a nice pen and a notebook first, and then I need to rearrange my workspace and do some filing and buy those books that are going to help me with my research… then, once all those things are done, then I can start writing.”

I just realised today that I’ve spend much of the last, oh, several years Yeti shaving. Yetis are the really enormous projects that you embark on because they make the yak so small and insignificant that it hardly seems worth thinking about, let alone shaving. Yetis, when prepared for shaving, drive out all thoughts of yaks because they just take up all the available space in your brain. Even the bits usually filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Yetis put off the act of putting off doing the thing you need/want to do. Yetis are yaks to the power of ow-my-brain-hurts.

My life is infested with Yetis. They have been creeping quietly up on me for years and I didn’t even notice. They’re so big – and some of them are very cuddly with soft fur that I can bury my face in – I could barely comprehend them. I couldn’t see them for what they were.

I’ve been thinking for some time now – about two years, I think, but it’s hard to know – about the direction I want my life to go in. I knew then and still know now exactly what I want, but I was so overwhelmed with Yetis that I didn’t know how to even begin to start moving in the right direction. There was always a Yeti in the way, blocking the path.

Some of those Yetis were important. Some of them were enjoyable. Some of them were necessary. All of them were used by my subconscious as reasons to not attempt to make progress.

Well, I’ve had it with Yetis. I’m putting them in my project kill file. My intention over the next few weeks is to assess every project that I’ve started, expressed an interest in, or got in the pipeline. Even projects that are just a twinkle in my mind’s eye. All of them will be dragged out into the harsh sunlight of the summer we never had and examined, head to foot. All of them will have to answer this fundamental question:

Does this project help me become an author? Yes/No.

Anything that can’t answer Yes goes in the kill file. Everything that can’t answer Yes goes in the kill file. Everything.

This means I am going to have to shut down some projects. I’m going to have to disappoint and let down some people. And for that I am truly, truly sorry. It’s not that I don’t love the project, love the idea and desperately with all my heart want to see if through. It’s that I just don’t have a long enough life-span to do everything I want to do and I’ve spent too much of it trying to do everything, and thus actually doing very little. It pains me that I am going to kill off half-finished projects. But they have to go.

Someone once said that if a writer isn’t writing, it’s because she isn’t reading. I’d like to amend that to:

If a writer isn’t writing, it’s because she hasn’t got her arse in the seat and isn’t tapping away at the keyboard.

In order to do that, I need to have enough mental space to daydream, to work through plot points and character arcs, to read and to write and to edit. So bye-bye Yetis. It’s been… hard work. But trust me, I’ll be better off without you in my life.

Stephanie Booth September 16, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Yay! Sounds like a really good decision. I think it’s a really important step to realize that you might, in life, choose not to do things that you actually want to do, because they would get in the way of doing things that you want to do even more.

Melissa September 16, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Hey, good for you! It sounds like you have taken a HUGE step. Good luck! I can’t wait to read more of your work!

Ann September 17, 2009 at 10:33 am

I find that it helps me set ideas aside if I take a little bit of time–say 15 minutes–writing down the idea. I put the file in my repository or make a backup, and then I feel safe to let them drift out of my mind because they’re still there, in a file. I can look at it in the future if I at some point have no ideas, or if I have a vague recollection of a good idea I had at one point and want to return to once I have time, but for the present, I can forget them.

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