Auditing the sparkles

Nicole Walsh Author
4 min readJan 2, 2023

Originally posted on my website, 14 Jan 2022

I spent the week auditing my sparkles.

I am studiously avoiding doing any actual writing by spending a week playing with all my project glimmers and ideas, fiddling about with little scraps of paper, shifting them about on my wall space.

Creating new stories has never been a challenge. From childhood I’ve had hundreds of files with dozens of stories on the go at any one time. I gush out new scenes, characters and fragments all over the place, much like a fire hose. The pull of the current yanks me this way and that in a mad dance, ideas fly everywhere… rarely hitting what I’m aiming at.

A year or two ago, I started organising this wild explosion of ideas by tracking each and every story. Each fragment (with a working title) has a tiny card blue-tacked to the wall. These little purple cards march from section to section across my wall as they go from a wiggly idea, to a decent concept, to a finished piece, through a cycle of editing and re-editing, and then finally to that most hallowed place on my wall: “Out into the World”.

On a bad day, these cards give me a visual of just how creative I am, and just how many projects I have in the pipeline. It shows me I have a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets, with more eggs jostling about, keen to join the party. On a good day, it gives me a place to spot a fragment that may be useful to an open call.

When a project is complete, I stick the tiny purple story card to the larger open call/magazine card. They stayed awkwardly shackled until the piece gets accepted or rejected.

As I scuffed through this week, looking for excuses to not set my fingers on an actual keyboard, I wondered about my current system. It has evolved over the past two years. Every now and then I have a new idea around organising, or get a tip from training or a resource and decide, “I’m going to give that a go!”.

Currently my little cards sail up and down a wall-length sea, cluttering around an island called “Stories with Sparkles”, drifting through a section called “Wiggly Concepts” and, if they are very lucky, being shifted between “Finish Edit and Gloss” “Plot Pot” and “Priority Project — Rework”.

It works, but… is this the best way for me to manage my projects?

It feels very much like the fire hose, with the wild and wily pull of the muse controlling the trajectory of these pieces. If a piece isn’t wiggling about, it tends to gather dust and remain stationary. I remain slave to the sparkle.

I don’t have a way of identifying the quality of the piece, nor whether it’s likely to be a fragment from a novel-length project, a longer short story/novella or a short story. Some pieces have more potential than others. Some wobble forever on the tippy precipice of completion, whilst other mirror-bright fragments burn holes in my retinas.

I love organising things, especially if it gives me an excuse not to actually write. I spent this week diving into the depths of my electronic system, matching stories to cards.

1. I ranked each piece, checking whether it was a fragment, coming together or close to completion.

2. I assessed whether it has unique concepts or whether it’s a bit meh

3. I flagged whether the glimmer was likely to be resolved in a short story, a novella or a novel.

Naturally, there were dozens of pieces that I forgot to write a card for. There are also cards where I have misplaced my story (my electronic system is a God-awful mess of duplicated stories, incomprehensible folders and changing working titles).

What do I hope to get out of this, aside from some beautiful hours of procrastination and a freshly re-organised wall?

If my goal is to push pieces (shorts, novellas and novels) to completion in order to circulate them between opportunities, how do I structure my system and my time to make this as productive as possible?

The obvious answer (which I knew even before I started playing with cards) is I need to spend less time writing shiny new fragments and more time trying to poke the muse down the channel of an existing story. This goes hand in hand with sitting my ass down, setting my fingers on the keyboard and finishing pieces.

Through 2020 and 2021 I set aside time each week to create new pieces for an open call, to write “silly stories” (without the pressure of them being good). To ruminate, splash about and play with a themed call.

Is this the best use of my creative energy, if the goal is more pieces completed and being cycled through opportunities?

Probs not.

This audit will give me a clear picture of what I have, and the strengths and status of each project. I will have re-ordered my systems and my time to focus more on completion of projects with potential and less on play spraying bright sparkling ideas everywhere.

Is January the time for you to do an audit of your creative project time and systems?

Do your current systems align with your goals for this year?

For me, 2021 was a year of play, of joy in creation. Of splashing about joyfully and making a beautiful mess. 2022 will be a year of swimming laps down the length of nice neat lines, focusing on form and strokes.

Starting, of course, next week.

This week I need to play with my cards :-)



Nicole Walsh Author

Nicole writes short and novel length speculative fiction. She writes a weekly blog at: or