Heads up, WU’ers: Longtime WU contributor Julianna Baggott has created a new audio series for writers: Efficient Creativity: The Six-Week Audio Series. You can listen to the first episode for free, on SoundCloud.
A friend and fellow writer recently asked me how I keep multiple projects going at the same time. The answer didn’t come to me right away. In fact, I was stumped. But a few days later, I had three possible answers. For better or for worse, here they are.
1. Use frustration and burn-out to your advantage.
Over the last few years, I’ve become obsessed with creative process. At the height of that obsession, I ran a survey of over a hundred writers – self-identifying as high and low producers. One thing that the survey showed is that high producers – not stoned, by the way, just very productive producers – worked on multiple projects at once.
By this point, I’d already started working on multiple projects for a number of reasons. One of which, oddly enough, is that I realized I couldn’t push a project that wasn’t working; I had to have patience. Now patience doesn’t seem like the right answer in this case, but it was. Or another way to think of it: My frustration fueled other work. I wanted to leave the project alone – give it space – and I wanted to keep writing. So, I’d start something else.
At certain times in my career – not often – I’ve had whole days to write. When I do, I burn out after about two hours of work. But I learned that the burn-out was project-related. If I left it and went to something else, I could refuel.
Another hint – it helps if the projects are very different – different audiences, genres, tones… or, at least, that’s been the case for me.
I don’t know if frustration and project-related burn-out are why other high-producers work on more than one project at once or not, but I do know that working on multiple projects adds to their productivity.
2. Create physical manifestations of the projects.
One thing that novelists suffer is the lack of physical manifestations of their work-in-progress. Architects have blueprints – we have … spaces in our heads. People who map their projects ahead of time have an advantage here – their novel’s cartography is a kind of short hand.
But you don’t have to be a plotter to create physical manifestations of your work-in-progress. Create drawings, lists, maps of what you’ve done, not necessarily where you’re going. Try it. This will allow you to enter and exit your projects faster and help you move between projects more cleanly.
3. Rituals. [Read more…]