How to Juggle…Writings.

Lately I have been reconsidering the pacing and scheduling of my non-deadline oriented writing.

My freelance stuff for magazines and websites is easy to place on the calendar. Finish it by the time it’s due. No ambiguity there. Yet what about the more personal projects?

And there need to be personal projects. Especially when the ultimate outcome is that my personal writing projects eventually make me money and bring me influence over certain communities.

The biggest project of course for the time being is my novel Flowers for Dionysus. That has a regular schedule of edits and revisions. In fact within the week I will begin the fourth draft. I’ve kept to my self-imposed deadline for that quite well over the last few years.

Yet I have all kinds of other writing projects in mind. I have about half an outline for a second novel. I have a play or two kicking around in my head. Numerous short stories that I haven’t gotten to yet. Assuming that none of these ideas are just visiting, I should have quite a bit of material to keep me busy in my personal writing life for a while.

Much of it is due to my policy of not working on more than one project. One novel at a time. The second one will wait. I must never begin to research or outline the play, because I am still editing the first novel and have not yet finished the outline for the second. Those two ideas for short stories that keep cropping up in my mind? I must get to at least a second draft on one before I even start to outline the other.

In essence, I am strict on myself when it comes to how much personal writing I will pursue at any one time. I hate having too many irons in the writing fire. While I think that is a wise position to have on the matter, I am starting to think  I might have tied my own hands somewhat.

For you see most of those projects I mentioned have been “in storage” for quite a while. Years in some cases. And the cue gets longer and longer as I come up with more ideas to explore. Even if only half of the ideas come to fruition, I am still quite behind. I have begun to think I should loosen up on my policy somewhat, just for the sake of having a collection of works in progress from which to select any given day.

I move slower than a lot of writers I know. When I compound that with doing only one, and possibly two things at a time…it’s a long game of catch-up left to be played.

My new theory is that some of these ideas have to exist in some tangible form in order for the working part of my brain to take them seriously. If they remain simply an idea in a notebook, that part of my brain will see them as window dressing. Nice to look at, but not affordable at this time. Whereas if, for example, there is at least a rough draft of a few of them out there, or the first few pages of a few of them, the worker part might say, “Okay, what do I have on my desk today? Where can I be most productive?”

Again, if I had to start everything in my idea notebook right now, I would drown in my own brainstorm. Yet perhaps its time to ease up on the “one thing at a time” approach.

I guess part of it is that I tend to think in a lineal fashion. Do this, then that, and conclude with those. Also part of me fears that working on more than one thing at a time will siphon away the creative juices that flow to any given project.

Can I work out some sort of schedule or system by which I can say, have not a dozen projects going, but maybe four, without feeling overwhelmed? Is there an approach I can take to give equal and fair attention to more than one project at a time, without any of them suffering? I would need a system no matter what. I think in systems. I have to. There are too many thoughts not to do so.

One thing I considered is assigning a certain amount of time each day to a given project, and when that time is up, stopping no matter what. Then I considered breaking it up by weeks. The first week of the month, most of my creative writing is dedicated to this project. In week two, everything goes to another project, and so on until the next month when I return to the first thing. No decisions as to how to do this yet.

Or perhaps I should not do it at all.

What do you think? Is one project at a time too sluggish a pace? How do you handle multiple personal projects? I am open to ideas. I just don’t want my ideas to wither simply because I had to take forever on the one that came before it.

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3 Comments

  1. Hey Ty,
    You ask: “Is there an approach I can take to give equal and fair attention to more than one project at a time, without any of them suffering?” It seems like right now all your ideas are suffering—simply from no time at all. So any time would be better. What if you keep your current schedule for your primary project (and keep that as your primary project) while adding in 30 mins a day to write on “other things” — and let those other things be whatever your mind wants to dwell on? Sometimes letting thoughts flow freely that way had exactly the opposite result from the one you’re worried about: it leads not to a loss of creativity but to creativity’s growth. In general, I don’t think creativity is like water in a well—something you draw from and then need to wait for it to replenish. I think it’s more like a muscle, in that the more you work it the more it grows and the stronger it becomes.

  2. That may be a good way to go. Certainly worth considering. It does seem that I am not giving enough time to other projects. Perhaps the key is not to try to give other projects equal time to my major project, but merely to give regular time to “other”, and let that stand as a testament to my working mind that I am taking seriously other projects as well.

  3. So after leaving this comment earlier today I came across this video which argues for my point, which you may find interesting. http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
    Basically my suggestion parallels nicely with the Google or “Fedex day” idea mentioned therein. 😀

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