If time is your writing problem, then stop wasting it. Hey, I get it. The world is INTERESTING. I too like shiny things and already have discovered far too many of them but I don’t have the time to pursue everything anymore. Writing a jump-start is hands-on way to reign in my curiosity and focus it on a long project or even long-term goals. Right now. Quit messing around. Tick tock.
I learned about the jump-start last year while reading “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long. On page 19, she lists nine questions and you set a timer for each to “write through your hesitations.” My initial drafts are about two pages long and take no more than an hour. My two favorite questions are list the 10 things this work (poetry collection, memoir, or book, or the long form of your art) needs to include and what questions arise from this subject matter. Do I really have something to say about a subject and do I have enough to sustain myself for the long haul?
I still work on small projects and play in my creative life, but when I feel the spark of “Is this bigger than this handful of poems or essays? Do I really have something here?” — I write a jump-start. I may not answer all of the questions on the first draft but even these gaps are useful in my next steps.
Long suggests that a jump-starts can be a rough draft of the project itself. Instead I use them to vet if I’m ready to commit a big or consistent chunk of time towards it yet. Once a project has a jump-start, I’ll revisit that write-up periodically to write a few lines of notes like things I’ve learned. It’s like a project log.
Reviewing a jump-start helps me answer if this project still interests me and if I am doing what I set out to do. I can even shelve the project and still have these notes if I ever want to return if stories change. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we think we’re doing and jump-starts are a tangible way to help me stay focused in a world full of distractions.