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Flip-a-coin decision making: Editor's Notes #354
December 15, 2021

Take advantage of your accumulated experience.
The next time you need to decide between two choices that seem basically equal, flip a coin.

—Jeff Haden

In this issue:

1. Flip-a-coin decision making
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.Flip-a-coin decision making
When you don’t know what to do with a manuscript, identify two choices. Assign one to be "heads" and the other "tails." Flip a coin. Go with whichever choice wins.

The above writing advice was buried in This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart by Madhur Anand, a book about many things, but not overtly about writing technique. Anand embedded the writing advice in a section not about writing at all, but it got me thinking, and I offer it to you with the hope that thinking about it may help you make some decisions.

Decisions can appear trivial or momentous. Sometimes we can predict how much weight to give a particular decision; sometimes we cannot.

Not resolving some decisions brings on writers’ block.

After some thought about Anand’s advice, I propose that if a writer is stuck, there’s not much to lose in flipping a coin. At the least, it is an action, and sometimes, just taking action, any action, gets a person unstuck. If you start down a road only to find it is taking you away from your goal, simply turn around and go back to the other option.

When I make a list of pros and cons about competing directions to take, I sometimes find myself not knowing how much weight to give each pro or con. This is a place where I have flipped a coin to good effect. Regardless of which option "wins," I know from my reaction which I really think is the better choice. I may not know why, but that doesn’t matter. I can move on in the direction that my subconscious mind prefers.

And if that turns out to be less palatable later, there’s always the option of returning to the point of indecision and trying the other choice.

2.Tickled my funny bone
I'm Claus-trophobic.

3. Interesting Web site
Jeff Hanen’s article goes far beyond what I’ve said and points out what neuroscience has to say about flipping a coin to make a decision.

4. Writing prompt
Your choice.

Write about a coin, or write about flipping (any kind of flipping you can think of). Of course, if you can’t decide which to write about, try flipping a coin — or write about both. I’d love to see your result.

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