How I Chose What to Write

One slow writer’s leap from idea to commitment.

I’m an idea man, always have been. With so many ideas and a lot of ADHD, it’s hard to get any piece past a synopsis.

However, a few pieces make it past the initial idea phase and make it into either in the form of a rough outline or an even more rigid “first chapter.” At the time of writing this, I have ten stories on the back burner. We’re not gonna mention non-fiction.

These stories get left in the ‘hold-off folder’ because of the interruptions of regular life. I write as long as I can, and then after coming back from everyday life, another idea has caught my attention.

This is where I struggle. Neil Gaiman’s advice to aspiring writers is to write and finish things. I do the first part decently, so which story do I pick back up and finish first?

Earlier this year, I had finished an experimental piece and once again stared at the pile of unfinished work and felt paralysis.

I began telling myself, ‘this is a good one’ or ‘no, I should wait until I’m a better writer to do this one.’ I was full of doubt and uncertainty about my talent, my content, and my style.

There was an apparent conflict between Resistance and Me. In the Art of War, Steven Pressfield said:

“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

I couldn’t have resistance to all of them at the same time, so what did I do?

I asked my friends. Readers, poets, hipsters, and actors. I asked them all.

The decision came down to two stories. An account of a man struggling to reintegrate into society after prison and a chronicle, halfway finished, about the complexities of achieving your life’s desires and how it may not be all that great.

Even with all the answers, I was still torn. Despite the split in responses, there was a clear denominator among everyone I asked. They all agreed on which story I shouldn’t write.

My friends gave comments like “That’s gross,” “Why would you write that?” “No one will read it.”

That was the confirmation that I needed.

That story is the one I chose to commit to. I’m still finishing it up, but after eight-ish months, I’m nearly there.

Instead of asking what you should write, ask what you shouldn’t write?


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