My Unmade-up Mind

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2021-08-02 17:00:00-04:00 No comments

Sorry about the radio silence — it's been busy here. I have the second draft of Unmortal on the table, the remaster of Four-Day Weekend in the works (look for it sometime later in August), my day job, and a bunch of organizational projects eating into my time. Among them is me trying to figure out what book to work on next out of the five or six that have presented themselves as possible projects.

I've been in this elevator a couple of times before. What's needed most is for me to have faith in my ability to come to a decision. — Okay, I know that sounds like a cop-out, but bear with me.

Modern life seems like a breeding ground for decision paralysis. There's so many options of every kind, it's no wonder some people's brains just park themselves in the narrowest possible tunnel and shut down. The less there is to think about at all, the better. Folks in the generation after me talk about only having so many "spoons" for something, a useful metaphor for cognitive load, too. Most of us are so drained by the daily grind for survival that any thought of Higher Things is out the window, let alone participating in civics. But that's another rant for another time.

It helps to make decisions if only as a way to avoid paralysis for a time. Before I started working on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, I had plans on the table for a story called The Palace Of The Red Desert. The plan was there, but the more I tried to produce something like a manuscript from it, the more I realized it wasn't going anywhere in its current form. After a couple of months of this, I decided I wasn't going to keep rolling that particular Sisyphus boulder uphill only to have it roll back down on me. So I shelved Palace, poked around in my archive, and realized I had a sensational idea for a story that had lain undeveloped in there for ages. Out it came, and it took off like a Maserati with a cinderblock on the gas.

A project is ready when you can write the first grafs of it and feel like something is happening, not when you have a plan on paper. I had a plan on paper for Palace and none of it made me feel like the story was touching off, not even when I had written a few thousand words as intro. It took less than a page for me to feel like AONO had touched off.

The key lesson I took away from that was simple: If a wheel doesn't turn, just get another wheel and see if that one does. Pick a project, get started on it, and if it touches off, great! If it doesn't, set it aside and find something that does touch off. But don't let indecision and the self-perpetuating feeling of "when I'm ready" rule you. Don't succumb to the creative sunk-cost fallacy.

I just now typed out that phrase without thinking about it in advance: the creative sunk-cost fallacy. Meaning, if you start working on a project and In Your Guts You Know It's A Bust, listen to that voice. Don't keep plowing through in the forlorn hope it'll become something palatable. Switch away, see what else awaits you.

Tags: creativity future projects projects