A few years ago, while I was working through the middle novel of a trilogy, my editor observed that I tend to write “shrubby plots.” Though I hate to admit it, this was a fair critique. There are so many potential plot complications, so many possible subplots, so many fascinating secondary and minor characters with their own stories to tell. Who wouldn’t want to explore all those possibilities?
I tend to approach life in much the same way. There are so many intriguing things to do and see and learn. I have more interests than I could fit into a dozen lifetimes. On the plus side, I’m never bored. But it’s very easy to overcommit, to get to the place where your To-Do list is epic and overwhelming. If you’re attempting to do too many things, chances are, you aren’t doing any of them very well.
Reaching goals requires three things: Good habits, clear priorities, and the willingness to simplify.
Some simplification tasks require very little of you. Clearing your desk at the end of each workday takes a few minutes. You can probably go through your closet and do a wardrobe inventory and reorganization in less than an hour—unless you’re like my older sister, who has more clothes than Neiman Marcus. But sometimes, pruning the branches of your life can be painful. It’s not easy to let some things go. But In life, as in fiction, creating a good story often comes down to knowing what you need to leave out.
What do you want the story of your life to be? If shrubby subplots are crowding that story off the page, it might be time to start pruning.