If you’re anything like me, you have multiple projects on the stove at all times. It’s like a holiday meal in the making, stirring that pot there, checking the temperature of the pan in the oven. And even without the reward of dinner, you still just like to cook.
But sometimes, it doesn’t come out so great, and it’s no longer fun; it’s frustrating.
I’ll stop with the metaphor. You, a great writer, love all of your ideas equally, so it’s impossible to choose just one. Allow me to reassure you, there’s nothing wrong with that at all! They are your ideas, and they are worth every moment you put into them, be they scripts, novels, fanfiction, or any other manner of work.
The problem appears when it becomes overwhelming, spreading your focus thin. No one likes staring anxiously at the ceiling at 3am thinking about how much they want to do and how little time they have. So here are some tips to keep progress moving forward, and keep your mind at ease.
Manage Your Time
By this, I don't necessarily mean a strict regiment of “you have to write ten pages of this story before 3pm or suffer the consequences”. Unless that works for you, then by all means. I just know that never works for me. 😅
Forcing yourself into a single box when you are built to be in multiple will inhibit your creativity. But just going at it with no plan can leave a lot of room for doubt. To aid this delicate balance, draft up an idea of how you would like your day’s writing session to go. This can include a to-do list, a summary, or even just the amount of time. Be sure to keep your deadlines and schedule in mind, adjusting technique as needed.
Reference this list when you jump into work, and switch projects as it pleases you. You may spend all your time on just one, or multiple. Although the amount of progress on each may not be as grand as you expected, progress is still progress, and it may help knowing this was all a part of the plan.
Know When to Keep Going
I know I said I was done with the metaphor, but that was a clever lie.
When a five-star, world-renowned chef burns their food, does that suddenly mean they can’t cook? No. It just meant they had an off day. If we fired someone every time they made a mistake, no one would work anywhere, the world would fall to ruin, and we’d be in the plot of some dystopian fiction.
So try not to fire yourself, lest I have to start building a bunker. Please and thank you.
I run into this problem all the time where I try to edit while I’m writing. In fact, I’m doing it right now! It can become especially tricky, though, when working on multiple projects, as your attention is already split. Add to that your mind in edit mode, and you may just wind up with nothing on all fronts. Let drafts be drafts. Keep flowing rather than thinking about that one sentence in the first paragraph. You can go back and revise it when it’s time.
Know When to Take Breaks
Everyone needs their alone time, and I think it’s smart to treat your relationship with your projects like those you have with people. Sometimes, time apart can renew our inspiration, and we can come back stronger than ever. Maybe not even alone time, maybe just not that project in particular. It doesn’t mean it’s over. In most cases, it means a new era of thought is beginning.
Maybe you’ve plateaued, or the gap between your taste and style has widened. Our minds like to try and trick us into hammering away at problems we don’t yet know how to solve, which can be more like bashing your head into a wall. A step away and self-care can clear the mind and eyes, so you can approach the situation more productively. And sometimes, you come back and realize the problems were just your insecurity! Who knew?
Know When to Let Go
Let me clarify, this in no way means you have to throw your project out of the house and never see it again. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as “thee hath been banish-ed”. Maybe you just aren’t working well together. If your interest in this project has declined significantly, it might be best to take it off the board altogether, and make room for something more you.
In summary, just be observant of how you’re feeling. Accept challenges, but stay yourself from taking on more than you can handle. If you practice maintaining this healthy balance, working on many projects can be very rewarding, indeed.