Tips for Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

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.

Via Google Images
Via Google Images

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.

Via Jamie Raintree
Via Jamie Raintree

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).

Via Images Buddy
Via Images Buddy

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.

Mark Hunter via Flickr
Mark Hunter via Flickr

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.

17 thoughts on “Tips for Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

  1. I used to be really good at multi-tasking. I often would switch beetween reading 2 to 3 books at a time.I could work on multiple projects in tandem. Then my aging brain told me I’d be better off working on one thing at time. But it’s boring. Now I’m trying to space things out so that I don’t get overwhelmed by everything I’m doing.

    1. Yes, for me one thing is boring. At last count, I have four books going, and if I submit to the contests and calls for submission I want to by end of August, that’s three writing projects plus my book. But I’m happiest when I’m busy, busy, busy!

  2. This is a primo post, Sherrey. I have an L-shaped desk and a padded ottoman within reach on which I spread assorted piles for projects. So far I have managed to avoid the padded cell with this system. I’m sharing this link with other bloggers right now. Love the poll too!

    1. You humble me, Marian, with your comments! I love the arrangement you have for spreading your piles around you. Most interesting is the fact that you’ve avoided “the padded cell with this system.” LOL! Thanks for sharing, and glad you liked the poll!

  3. Sherrey … In my youth, I struggled to manage more than one project at a time and had the good fortune to rarely be bored. I got better at multi-tasking as the years passed (more practice, perhaps). For a while, I thought I was regressing, but now that I’ve cut back on social media, I seem to be managing it better. I’ve come to see social as not just a time sink, but also a endless source of bits of info to be processed, with no particular benefit. I think you are much more organized than I am (e.g., I make notes in a notebook, but then can’t find them … or heaven forfend, forget to go back and look them up.

    1. Changing my stance on my presence on social media has made me a happier person. For some reason, there seems so much tension and pressure to “perform” on social media, to become someone I’m not. I credit my years as a legal secretary/assistant with my penchant for organization. I worked for a high-powered, busy partner who traveled a great deal and if I hadn’t been organized, my life would have gone to hell in a handbasket as would his! Could not happen! I think I sense a memoir in there …

  4. Excellent post, Sherrey, and all good ideas. I had to smile at your DND mode. Reminds me of the PID mode we started using here when I was deep into writing my own memoir. Best of luck as you continue to make progress on all of your projects.

    1. Linda, so nice to see you and I appreciate your comments. I remember your PID mode. I just have to go into DND mode when I want to accomplish serious writing. Other things I can work on without too much problem, but the book requires all of me.

  5. Sherrey,Great tips 🙂 I like to have more than one project going ….Congrats on finishing your first draft of your memoir…quite an accomplishment 🙂 Like you, I’m thankful for my hubby’s input on my writing 🙂

    1. Dolly, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Seems we have a couple of things in common here — multiple projects and hubbies who are good at reading for their writers. 🙂 I was so glad to receive my “postcard” today. Will comment later tonight.

  6. They say that having two projects on the go keeps you fresh… plus you need something to do when you set aside one project to get a fresh perspective. The brain stops seeing mistakes after a time and “shelving it” becomes necessary.
    It’s nice to be back online again. Your blog looks wonderful. I have missed my buddies.

    1. Oh, Cate, you’re here! Wish I could have had your comment to quote when I drafted this post: “The brain stops seeing mistakes after a time and “shelving it” becomes necessary.” I’ve missed you!

  7. I voted for the switch randomly because I can’t do just one thing. Even two seems limited. I get more done doing more, I’m pretty sure.

    1. Luanne, I like your words “I get more done doing more.” I’m pretty sure about that too, and yes, just one thing seems very limited. Can’t wait to gather up the poll results in a few days and see what kind of response I received.

    1. Hi, Donna, and welcome! I’m glad you found something helpful here. BTW, I was back at your blog and noted you mentioned “dreams.” Without dreams, what would we have? Keep dreaming. See you around!

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