I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel the need to switch off working on my memoir project. Currently, I am completing a second draft of my memoir.
However, despite nearing the end, there are times when I feel like I’ve lost my focus or have grown tired of this project.
Many writers and writing instructors assert that one should work on only one book or project at a time.
Henry Miller asserted such wisdom around 1932-1933:
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished. [Boring!] …
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. [Also a bit boring!]
But what about that guest post for your writing partner, or the contest you want to enter, or a short story you want to write?
As you can see, I’m not a committed fan of single projects. My Type A personality lends itself more to challenging myself with more than one thing going at a time.
How to balance, or juggle, multiple writing projects? Below are a few simple tips to help:
1. Make notes, copious notes to self! I may have a random thought or idea run through my mind while writing. I quickly reach for paper and pen, and I write it down! There isn’t any chance I’ll remember by the time I complete what I’m doing at that moment. I keep a small notebook with me for just this purpose.
2. Talk to another writer or good friend! If I have ideas for future projects or another ongoing one, I’ll talk it out with my husband (he’s my best friend and a great listener) or someone else to sort out the good stuff to keep and toss the bad out right away. Doing so keeps me from thinking about things I don’t need to think about now.
3. Set a daily word goal. I have a daily word goal, but not based on just one project. If I can write a total of 750-1000 words each day, combining all the writing I do that day, while also juggling my other hats of wife, co-owner of a small business, webmaster for that business, homemaker, committee member, and social media for my writing purposes, I feel I’ve been successful. Here’s an image of a spreadsheet (above) designed by Jamie Raintree, writer and Excel genius (free to download at Jamie’s site under her “For Writers tab).
4. Tell others when I’m writing and in DND mode. We have an open door policy at our house, and closed door one as well. When the door to my writing space is closed, it translates to DND (do not disturb). Otherwise, come on in! Everyone (my husband) but the cat (only one pet) honors my DND mode. The cat tries scratching or pushing against the door.
5. Before beginning a new project, map it out. I am not always a planner; I’m more of a pantser. Except when working on bigger projects, like a book. Then I sit down and using either Scrivener, my go-to writing software, or Mind Maple, my mind-mapping software, I create the equivalent of an outline, a very rough outline, so that I capture all my thoughts about the new project at the beginning. Of course, not everything comes to you at the beginning but time spent preparing some sort of plan is helpful. The image above is the mind map for my memoir resulting from writing a second draft.
6. Some days don’t go as planned, so here’s what to do. If I’m having a day where I feel I’ve lost my focus on everything in front of me or within reach, and the caffeine isn’t kicking in but the inner critic is, and the cat won’t go away, and nothing, nothing at all seems right, I stop everything and point myself in the direction of which project needs my attention most at the moment. Then I set everything else aside, including the cat and the inner critic, and mentally shift my focus to that project. But I have to clear my head and my desk in order to bring that project into clear focus. With practice, this will come more easily.
Not all creatives enjoy working on multiple tasks simultaneously, and there is no fault in this. It is the way our brains are wired. My husband can’t understand how I can watch NFL football games and knit or read at the same time. He can’t do that. His focus has to be on one thing and one thing only. We each have to adopt our own plan of writing and getting our projects completed.
My hope is that, if nothing else, you found one thing helpful here today.
Just for fun here’s a short poll you can take if you like about multiple projects:
Question: Do you work on multiple projects or just one? If multiples, how do you handle juggling them? Share your process. I’d love to read about it.