Wednesday 18 January 2023

How to decide what to do next - by Lu Hersey

Feb 1st is Imbolc, the Celtic fire festival that celebrates the first stirrings of new growth, the sparks of life preparing for the coming spring. Traditionally it's the feast of the goddess Brigid, or in more recent times, St Bridget - whatever you believe, it's the perfect time to set goals for the coming year. Inject some creative energy into a project simmering on the back burner, or fire up something completely new. 

Here's a simple ritual that might help you focus, decide what you want to do next, and get going.

To start, make a list of things you might want to work on and develop this year, however tentative or currently unformed your ideas might be. 

Next, choose an object to represent each of these ideas. I currently have five different writing projects percolating, so my list goes something like this:

1. The cosy crime for adults I gave up on last year because even though I liked the characters, the plot was all over the place. 30K words in and I realised there still wasn't a body, which probably should have happened back in chapter one. I'm choosing a penknife to represent this one, to help me remember to kill someone a lot earlier. 

2. Writing a screenplay for unpublished novel number 3. This book would definitely work as a film, even if it stands very little chance of being made. Possibly a big waste of time, but I really enjoy writing screenplays... I'm choosing a small bottle of Sahara sand someone gave me for this idea, because at one point, the characters nearly die trying to get out of a desert.

3. Revitalising the time-slip story I got really gloomy about when I realised how many time-slip stories are out there already. Choosing a carved dragon head for this one, because there's a very elusive dragon at the heart of it.

4. A completely new book idea I've had, set in the mesolithic. I wrote the first chapter a while ago, but haven't written a single word since. Choosing a toadstool for this, because there were probably a lot of forests back then (and I happen to have a felt toadstool).

5. A spooky detective story I gave up on because it was giving me nightmares, but I really loved the parrot at the centre of the plot. I've selected a macaw feather I picked up in an aviary for this. 

Anyway, you get the idea. Once you've chosen the objects you want to represent your projects, put them on a plate (or maybe a tray if you have too many ideas or your objects are too big) and find a candle. It doesn't matter what colour the candle is, but white and green are the colours for Imbolc and most of us probably have a tealight somewhere. 

Put your candle where it won't set fire to anything, next to something that represents Imbolc - a vase of snowdrops, a twig of hazel catkins, a birch twig, a Brigid's cross - even an egg will do. This is all about setting intentions, so choose something to symbolise new beginnings. 

Cover your plate/tray and turn it round a few times until you lose track of where each object is. Now light your candle and stare at the flame as you try to empty your mind. Stop thinking about your plot ideas. If you simply find yourself wondering what you're going to have for lunch instead, it really doesn't matter. 

Now close your eyes, and reach out to touch the plate with your index finger. What's the first object your finger touches? Lift up the cover to find out. This will be the project to focus on. 

OK, maybe you hate the object you've picked, wish you hadn't put it on the tray, and want to choose again? Fine. At the very least, you've made your final decision easier by narrowing down your choices. Remove that object, mull it over, and try again. Of course there's nothing to say you can't work on two or three different projects at the same time if you want to. 

The point of the exercise is simply to set your goals for the coming months. Hocus pocus? Possibly. But if it helps to motivate you, who cares? 

In case you're interested, the object I picked was this:

So looks like it's murder ahead for me...

Happy New Year!

Lu Hersey


Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea 🌟💚🌱 Love the objects, I thought it was gonna be the crime one! Xx

LuWrites said...

Thanks Anonymous (who I discovered this morning is actually you Laura Daligan!) Just preparing my murderous chapter right now...😁

Unknown said...

Aha, I love the cozy crime one! Mind you, they're all brilliant!
H x

Katherine Roberts said...

Love this! Definitely going to try it, though slightly ashamed to say only two of my projects are writing related... do you think it will work as well to mix different types of projects?