Avoiding the Shiny Object Syndrome: Two Lessons for the New Year

This is the time of year when I fall prey to Shiny Object Syndrome, otherwise known as a complete inability to stick to my plan.
Here’s how it happens.

I review last year’s progress (or lack of it) and come up with goals for the new year.

I set quarterly goals. I break them into monthly goals. Each week I come up with a list of what I want to achieve that week, and every morning I make my to-do list for the day. If I’m really feeling organized, I prioritize it in a way that would make Stephen Covey proud.

But after a few days I start to second-guess myself. Is all this effort going to pay off? Will I ever make any money? Will my husband stop supporting my business (or is it a hobby I call a business?) and ask me to find a real job?

So I start thinking about how I can find greater success faster. I’ve already written two memoirs for other people. Can I make that into a business? One even won a Reader’s Favorite Bronze Medal. The second is a ghostwriting project that pays cash money up front. Maybe I can leverage that into a viable business.

Or should I keep on with my fiction? I’ve gotten some good feedback on my story concepts and excerpts I’ve shared with beta readers.

Or do I try short stories? People say that’s a quicker way to get into print, and can jump start marketing of novels.

Or do I try to become a technical writer? A copy writer? Or something else?

Every new idea is like a bright and shiny new object. It looks more appealing than the old ideas I’ve pursued, distracting me with the promise of something new and exciting.

Why do I let myself get distracted?

Two reasons.

The first is fear.

I’m afraid I won’t succeed at what I’m trying to do. What if I never figure out how to do it well? I’m afraid of rejection. Of wasting my time. Of being laughed at.

The second reason is laziness.

I’m probably like a lot of people. I want the most return for the least amount of effort.

The problem? Generally, there’s no way of avoiding hard work. At least, if I want to be a writer of work I’m proud to put my name to. As much as I daydream about an easy way to wealth and fame, there’s only one way to get them.

And, just for the record, I have rather modest definitions of wealth and fame. I’d like to have a decent sized following of my work, and to be able to get out of debt.

The first lesson is to ignore the fears. I just need to think through my strategy, pray about it, consult my husband, and go for it. Pick one or two things, and focus on them.

The second lesson for me is to follow the old writer’s advice: sit down and put your butt in the chair, and get those fingers moving.

What I should avoid are the shiny new ideas. They can wait until I’ve either had success with an old idea, or have worked it until I’m sure it’s not going to succeed. I can just add them to a “look into this someday” list.

In the meantime, I’ve got a novel to edit.

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