“If you could invite three people – alive or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?”
I’ve heard this question a lot over the years. Usually, it’s an ice-breaker, a get-to-know-you question at an orientation or a conference.
My answers have always varied, from inspiring historical figures to celebrities I crush on. But one thing I know for sure:
I would have that party catered.
I’m not a terrible cook – I can find my way around the kitchen. No, the problem isn’t my cooking. It’s my inability to commit to a decision.
Here is what I would do: far in advance I would plan the menu. Then I would spend the remaining days on Pinterest looking for better options. I would fret and pace and chew my nails over whether they would like what I planned. By the time the honored guests arrived, I would have nothing to serve them except some leftover pizza.
Would Nelson Mandela have enjoyed cold pizza?
While my imaginary dinner party will never happen *sniff* it is a silly metaphor for what often happens when I am ready to begin a new writing project.
I choose a topic and get started.
The next day, I am distracted. The shiny objects that we call “other ideas” start squirreling their way into my brain and have me second-guessing my choice of topic.
And before you know it, I’ve abandoned a perfectly good story.
Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. Some stories really are best set aside for another time or abandoned all together.
But most of the time, they are FINE.
This freak-out is a manifestation of perfectionism. This need to pick exactly the “right” story creates the thoughts that make us question the “right”-ness of the story … and often keep us from writing at all.
What if no one likes it?
It isn’t good enough.
There is a better story out there, I know it.
Who do I think I am?
And so on.
The next time you find yourself questioning if the story you have chosen is the “right” one to be working on, try asking yourself these questions instead, answering with a simple YES or NO.
Is this a story you can write in its entirety? In other words, do you know the pertinant details?
Do you feel compelled to write this story? Note: motivation and inspiration come and go. But big picture…is this a story you want to share?
If the answers were yes, then guess what, my friend … it is the “right” story. As right as any other story would be.
Consider this: you have no control over whether anyone else likes your story. Sure, you can ensure some quality control, but you cannot control how it lands with them.
I can’t control whether Nelson Mandela would have liked my taco pie recipe. But I feel pretty confident that he would have applauded my effort.
Stay with it until it’s done. Keep a running list of those other squirrelly ideas that pop up, but don’t follow them. It is your monkey mind trying to distract you from the task you have chosen to do.
Do not question it. Just write it.
Prove to yourself that you can finish what you start, and believe that it IS the right story.
All stories are worth sharing.