This does not mean immediately dropping everything you're doing to analyze your options and refocus your efforts. You probably have a Work In Progress (or a best candidate for a WIP). Keep at that so that your good habits as a writer continue. Also, it would not be a good idea to immediately stop work on any projects which you are obliged to finish, especially if a contract is in place.
Even if you have nothing in progress and no obligations, be sure to keep writing. Choose a small project like a short story to work on and complete as you do the work necessary to planning which works you need to write. But, put a date on the calendar, which will be the start date for your "write to you are" efforts.
Begin by brainstorming a list of 3 to 5 opportunities that seem to make sense. (You can start with a longer list, but whittle it down so the ranking is not too onerous.) Then you can begin to evaluate these.
What are your criteria for selecting projects? Ultimately you get to decide. But here are some suggestions:
- Passion probably will be important as you review your options. Use the other lessons in this series and/or your gut to determine how these rank as far as which is the most important one for you to tell.
- Evaluate each in terms of how fresh it feels and how it will provoke you to explore new ideas and connections. Give extra weighting to anything that makes you a little bit uncomfortable.
- Since you are looking for a new direction be careful about choosing one-off projects that, although enticing, are less likely to set you on the right path.
- Think about the time commitment implied by each choice. Don't set yourself up for a project that will take you nine years to complete when there's another on the list that might be nearly as valid and doable in a year or less.
- For many people, financial outlay should also be a consideration. Sometimes dedication to the art requires sacrifice, but don't martyr yourself if you don't have to. Starvation makes it more difficult to have fun. And you should be having some fun.
- I'm a big believer in deadlines. Whatever you put your hand to, see if you can determine a completion date. If you have the discipline, this can develop into a full-fledged plan, with lots of commitments on your calendar. But there's nothing wrong with looking toward finishing your project in time for submission to a writing program or a contest. In fact, many people I know who have had success use contests as a spur to complete their manuscripts.
If you are not fully committed or you are still figuring out what matters most to you, you may want to ease yourself into High Authenticity Writing. I suggest the first one you choose the one where you expect to have a good experience. Get started with as many positive vibes as you can.
You can push your limits later and reach toward higher ambitions later on. First, get your feet set. There will also be practical considerations, like working in a genre (science fiction, romance, thriller) and format (short story, novel, script) that you have experience and perhaps a track record in. A shorter work means less of a commitment. You don't want to spend the next year working in a genre you have experience in but which is not the best for you.
So, 1) don't stop writing, 2) consider setting aside some time (not your writing time) to determine short-term criteria to ease yourself into High Authenticity Writing, and 3) mark the date on the calendar to determine your long-term criteria and to rank and select your next project or two.
Have as your goal making your writing process a richer and more fulfilling experience. Chances are, if you do this and you complete and submit your works, the truth and value of your efforts will show through and will provide what only you have to offer to readers.