Wednesday, February 6, 2019

IWSG: Between a Rock and a Crazy Place

The title of this post is from an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and it pretty much sums up how I feel about my writing right now.

My plan for 2019 was to work on two big writing projects. They differ in some ways, but are similar in others. They're at different stages in development. And I'm equally excited about both of them. I can totally do this! I told myself. I'll come up with a plan, and I will rock it!

Well, the only rock around here is the one I'm hitting my head against, over and over. What was I thinking?

I was thinking, I should be able to do this. Other writers do it all the time.

But maybe I can't. Maybe I'm not disciplined enough or strategic enough in my planning. Maybe my middle-aged, anxiety-riddled, worry-wringing brain can't carry everything - multiple characters, reams of dialogue, scenes galore, etc - around the way it used to. Maybe I don't have the creative energy or the physical energy to take on two big projects.

Or maybe I just work better focusing on one project at a time. Maybe I should let one wait its turn. But which one? And you know as soon as I put it aside, I'll be struck by a brilliant plot twist or a super-duper scene stealing moment.

Hmm, maybe I'll just sit here on my rock awhile and see if you all have any thoughts. . . .

*****

How do you work best? Do you prefer to focus on one project at a time or do you like lots going at once? How do you handle multiple projects re: scheduling, creative energy, etc.? Should I give my 2019 plan a little longer, see if I can make it work? 


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68 comments:

  1. One project at a time!! It's the only sane way for me to be productive:)

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    1. I tend to work on one big project and one smaller one at the same time, but two big ones? I don't know....

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  2. While I have done more than one project at a time, I prefer to focus on one at a time. I think I give the project more attention this way.

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    1. I was wondering if splitting my attention and energy would work here or not. It seems to work okay for smaller projects, but I'm not sure that will be the case here.

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  3. I thought I could handle writing a new novel while querying a finished novel. Unfortunately, the required amount of rejection querying brings just dragged down my enthusiasm for writing and I ended up quitting both pursuits and spending three months gardening just to recover. I'm still trying to rev up the writing engines to get the new novel going and have put querying on the back burner for now. So, maybe try going with one project until you hit a brick wall. Then switch. Or maybe it takes putting one away for your brain to rebel and present you with several incredible reasons to go back to it. Any forward progress is worthwhile.

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    1. I think I'm partly worried about picking the "wrong" project to work on, like I'll miss my opportunity to do something fantastic if I don't choose wisely. I've felt like that before. Sigh.

      Good luck with revving up those writing engines!

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  4. Maybe just bounce back and forth between the two?

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    1. That was the plan, but it feels like I'm not making progressing on either of them.

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  5. I usually work on one or two projects at a time.

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    1. I'm starting to think that, for me, it depends on the size and complexity of the projects.

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  6. I always go back to trying to multi-task and it never seems to work for me either. But which project to pick?! That's the trouble, eh?

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    1. It is! One project sits well inside my comfort zone while the other only has one foot in it. Argh!

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  7. Give yourself a break, huh? Not all writers can work with the same deadlines or workload as other writers. And that's perfectly all right. And it is okay to alter your goals to make them manageable and attainable for you.

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  8. Hi Madeline, I usually work on one project (a book) and my free-lance assignments. Focus on one project at a time, if and when you get a brilliant idea about the other project just write it down.

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    1. I think that's the struggle I'm having here - the two projects are equally large and complicated. I'm definitely able to work on one longer project, like a novel, and shorter ones, like flash fiction, at the same time.

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  9. If you flip a coin you'll know exactly what you want to do.

    I'm working two projects and try to touch each one at least once a week. Sometimes I focus on one more than the other, but I'm okay with that too.

    You make the rules. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Oh, I remember something about the coin toss - if you choose "heads" and heads comes up but you're disappointed, then you know what you really want to do! :)

      I like the idea of alternating working on the projects....

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  10. I prefer to work on one project at a time, but if an opportunity arises for a short-term writing project, I generally take it. Switching to something new for a little while is refreshing, and it feels so GOOD to actually finish something while still in the throes of writing the novel. Also, abandoning my own work to edit another writer's novel gives my brain a respite from thinking about my own project for a while. (Can't stop too long, though, or the ol' brain doesn't want to re-start!)

    BUT... I don't know how well I'd be able to divide my attention between two major projects at the same time. When I get involved in writing, it consumes my mind, and I dunno if my mind is big enough to be consumed by TWO demanding books at the same time. :)

    Does one of your projects "speak" to you more than the other? If not, and you're equally invested in both of them, I think you can handle working on them at the same time by switching from one to the other as your fancy moves you. But if this method makes you feel stymied and as if you aren't making any progress, you're gonna have to pick one. Don't worry about picking the "wrong" one, because the other one will still be waiting patiently for you when you finish the first. If trying to write two at once isn't working for you, stop doing it! Writing should be more about the joy than an "I-can't-do-this" kind of anxiety.

    Just my three cents' worth. (Inflation!) Hang in there. You've got this!

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    1. Love this, Susan, thank you!

      I AM feeling stymied and like I'm not making progress on either project.

      I'm one of those people who usually thinks there's a "right" choice and when it's not obvious, I freeze and can't choose at all. But when you said this -"Writing should be more about the joy than an "I-can't-do-this" kind of anxiety." - it really reminded me of what I want my writing and my writing life to be about.

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  11. I usually focus on one project, but this month I am trying something different and am working on two different ones. What I've been doing is I write a chapter or scene for one, give myself a little break, then write a chapter or scene for the other. I don' worry about how many words there. Just one scene for each then goal accomplished for the day.

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    1. Interesting! I think I would need a bigger break between the two, like maybe work on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It would have to be a whole mind shift sort of thing.

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  12. "And you know as soon as I put it aside, I'll be struck by a brilliant plot twist or a super-duper scene stealing moment." <--- This happens to me all the time, which is why I always like to have at least two projects going at once—a main project, and a back-up. Whenever I get stuck on the main project, I play around with the back-up until my brain works through the main project problem. It's not a perfect system by any means, and I do often feel that I'm not making any progress on either project, but I still like to have that back-up project.

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    1. When I work on flash fiction and short stories, I do feel like I'm making progress in that area. I think that's part of what helps me keep going with whatever longer project I've got going on.

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  13. Boy does this hit home. I'm finally making progress on my novel, and suddenly I'm all "hey, I've got some great ideas for a collection of short horror stories. Let's get cracking. I can do both!" Pfffft.

    But I have come up with a "plan." I will primarily work on the novel, and set aside one writing session each week to work on the shorts. I'll let you know how/if that works out. But I am getting this novel written if it's the last thing I do.

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    1. Working on a novel and short stories might work for you. It usually does for me. Good luck with it!

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  14. Girl, you know, age has *nothing* to do with being able to focus only on one project at a time. You're no two-timer! That's fabulous! All my life, I've only been able to work on one project at a time.

    Wow, I love what Susan said. I, too, find it refreshing to take a break from being holed up with one story for months when I choose to whip out an old one for editing or even rewrites. It's always cathartic to start a story from scratch and I've recently discovered that I can write short stories!

    They used to be challenging because I'm so used to novel-length writing but my horizons have stretched to include them in my arsenal.

    It helps to have a writing buddy to help sort out the tangles of yarn in the brain. (Let me know if you ever need one, I love sorting out messes!) <---seriously

    hugs!

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    1. In life, and apparently in writing, I am not much of a multi-tasker. I am learning to be okay with that - I only have so much energy and focus - but it's not easy when there's so much I want to accomplish!

      I love that you "stretched" your writing horizons to include writing "short" pieces! :)

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  15. I am a one project at a time writer. Sometimes I have to set something aside to work on something else, but I never try to do two things. But YOU can do it!

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  16. Just an observation, while you're bashing your head against the rock, you're not working on either. Try both, simultaneously. You'll feel the pull of one more than the other. Or coin toss, as Anna suggested.

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    1. Ha! Great point! That is exactly what is happening. Sigh.

      And thanks for Following us here at TSR!

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  17. Ah, I think you just described my life right there.

    I've found focusing on what wants my attention the most is where I'm most productive. Maybe it's the plot twist. Maybe it's finishing a chapter. Even though I know I should work on this other thing, I can't if my mind is elsewhere.

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    1. That's interesting, Loni! I never thought of approaching it that way.

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  18. I usually just work on one project. Maybe don't pressure yourself. Part of the process is to enjoy it. Maybe pick up one project and if you are really inspired to work on the other one too, pick it up the next day.

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    1. But pressuring myself is one of the few things I'm good at! Actually following through, well, that's a different story. :)

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  19. I'm friends with that rock too! Honestly, I find it easier to keep a couple MSs going at once. If I get stuck on one or need time to stew, I switch to the other. But I'm sure it's not something for everyone.

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  20. Happy New Year, Madeline. I think it's fine to multi-task if that's what you want to do. Maybe stuff might come up while you're working one project that can inspire you to try out stuff in another project.

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    1. Happy New Year to you, too! Yes, stuff from one project has inspired me in another project before - thanks for the reminder!

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  21. Oh, I know what you mean, when two different projects pull you in two different directions, and you just sit there and procrastinate instead of working on either one. Very familiar situation, alas. I just wing it when I encounter such a situation in my life. No rules. But there are some good advises in the comments here.

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    1. Yes! That's exactly what happens!

      I'm not usually someone who wings things, but it's definitely something to consider. Maybe a different approach to the whole situation is the key....

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  22. I can work on more than one project a time, but it sort of has to be A Big Project and a Little Project. One has to receive the majority of the focus with the other fitting in around the edges. I've tried to work on two Big Projects at a time and it just stresses me out so that I can't focus well on either project.

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    1. I can usually handle the one big/one smaller project scenario, but this is the first time - that I can remember anyway! - attempting two big projects. It's doing my head in!

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  23. Over time I've learned I work best when I'm focused on one thing at a time (especially when it comes to writing first drafts). I can get easily distracted though. Sometimes the distraction works a treat. Other times, not so much. Unfortunately it's not the same every time. I think there are too many differing factors. So... I guess I'm not much help then, lol.

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    1. Lynda, your comment sounds a lot like what happens in my brain. Only your comment is much more coherent. :)

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  24. I used to be able to do multiple projects at once, but as I've gotten older, it's become harder to give each the full attention and focus it deserves. The only exception might be a lesser project with a big project, like a short story and novel.

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    1. I was wondering if it was somewhat an age-related thing. It might not be the whole problem, but it probably doesn't help.

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  25. I have a hard time balancing multiple projects. My brain always wants to go one way. And you are definitely the type of person to write whatever story you want to write. You can do it!

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  26. I don't think I could focus on more than one writing project at a time. Too confusing for my middle-aged brain :-)

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    1. I'm still wondering exactly when my brain became middle-aged. How did that happen?!

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  27. I guess we each have to find our own way...but these days, I have to focus on one thing at a time.

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    1. I'm starting to wonder if that's the better way for me, especially in terms of focusing energy, creative and otherwise.

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  28. Write the way that works for you!
    I usually have projects in various states, but I move from one to another as the need/work comes up. So, right now, I have my main WIP that is my focus. I have 2 others that are "half--awake" projects. Those 2 others are just getting a little attention when an idea for one of them pops up - I take notes on the idea and put it aside. With that "idea" moment out of my system, I go back to the main WIP and work again. I also take notes on my main WIP because otherwise, I forget everything - character names, place names, plot arcs, etc. When I finish a book, I usually have another 50+ page document with notes. My current WIP has had so many big revisions that I have around 100 pages of notes. It feels excessive, but I need those notes.

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    1. I love the idea of "half-awake projects" - makes me think of stories all sleepy, rubbing their eyes, stretching.... :)

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  29. Focusing on one thing at a time keeps me sane. Thank you for sharing!

    www.ficklemillennial.blogspot.com

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  30. I work on one project until I hit a bump, and it I can find a solution pretty quick, I switch and work on another. However, I try to make one my main focus and the other my distraction or change to shift my mindset, but I do tend to work on more than one thing, with one being the main focus or need for that day.

    Happy IWSG.

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    1. I can do that with short stories, but I'm struggling here with my current big projects.

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  31. For me, it's better to focus on one project at a time. When I get that "brilliant" idea for a plot twist, etc. for another project, I jot it down so I don't forget then get back to the original project. Otherwise, I wouldn't finish anything. But...do what works best for you.

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    1. I hear you about not finishing anything. That's how I feel now. Although, I am finishing some flash fiction and short stories, so that's something. :)

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  32. I'm definitely better focusing on one project. Too confusing otherwise! But, as Diane says, you can keep a running notebook of all the breakthroughs that come for the other story. That means when you get to it, it'll probably write itself!

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  33. I’m a one-at-a-time person, though I alternate with projects at different stages—put one aside as soon as it’s drafted to edit an older MS or something. This time, though, I’m trying for straight through—drafted it in November and December, and I’m into edits now. Not making much progress, though.

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  34. I have a heck of a time working on two novels at once. I'm not averse to trying it again, but so far it hasn't been successful for me.

    I don't like reading two different books at the same time, either, unless one is a cookbook. Then it's okay.

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    1. I don't like to read two novels at the same time, but I'll read a novel and nonfiction or short stores or magazines. :)

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