We're delving into more controversy this week with a question that has had writers gesticulating at each other furiously for (possibly) millennia... Do you stick to one project at a time or do you have several on the go at once? Read on to find out on which side of the line the Write Yorkshire scribblers sit.
I usually have a whole collection of projects on the go at once. I like to dip in and out and leave things when I've had enough, so it's quite nice sometimes. I usually have a focus project though that tends to take up most of my time.
I think it can be really fun to have different writing to come in and out of. Often I find that one piece will lend me an idea for another, or that it's really refreshing to mix formats and genres in your mind.
It can be super overwhelming though, too many cooks in the kitchen etc! If I'm not careful my brain will hop all over the place and I won't be able to focus on the project I'm currently trying to work on.
Ultimately, it depends on the person. If you like having multiple projects on the go, then there's definitely a balancing point before it goes too far and if you don't then it's easy to get stuck and just stop writing for ages. Everyone's different!
I like to have a few projects on the go, because I find it very easy to get into a position where something isn’t working and I need to give it a rest and come back with fresh eyes. If I have a few stories in development, it means I can have a break from whichever one is starting to grate on me, and go and work on something else for a bit.
This works well for me because these days I mainly work in short form. However, I have to admit, the fact that I have at least three unfinished novels languishing on my laptop suggests that this is from necessity rather than choice. I would love to have the stamina and concentration to sit down and write My Novel, eschewing everything else until it’s done.
However, I have to be realistic, and face the fact that, as a person who is usually reading at least four books at a time; has several unfinished series lurking on Netflix; has various incomplete craft projects stuffed into cupboards and drawers, and has been known to throw away semi-done jigsaws when they were just taking too damn long, this is probably not going to happen.
I’m a flibbertigibbet, with the attention span of a sequin. Sometimes, you just have to work with what you have.
Honestly, I struggle to keep myself focused on one project at a time. I think I'm probably working on at least three things at the moment.
I should clarify, I don't furiously work on multiple projects, all while scribbling away on scraps of paper and an open notebook. I sort of float between them. I might be working on a series of stories for a few weeks and then my attention could return to a poem that I've left to the side.
I understand that some writers make themselves stick to one project at a time - and it makes sense. Devote all your attention and energy to one project and get it finished before you move on to something else. It's probably the sensible thing to do. I just can't do it. Maybe I don't have the attention span.
I've tried to stick to one project and see it through but I always seem to seize up after a while. Like my creative energy runs dry and I need to shift my attention to something else to reinvigorate it.
In terms of advice, I say just do whatever works best for you. If you prefer focusing on one project at a time, do that. If you're more like me and you need to keep a variety of projects on the go to keep afloat, then do that.
I know many writers that advocate forcing yourself to focus on one project, until that project is done. However, unless you’re working to a deadline and time is against you, I personally believe that you need to work in whatever way suits you best. I like to have a few projects on the go where I can, because (where deadlines permit) I can work on whatever is exciting me the most when I sit down to write. Typically, I'll have a main project and a side project or two to play with.
If forcing yourself to stick to one project is wearing the edge off your passion for writing, you need to evaluate whether that’s something you can / need to / want to live with.
Having a few projects on the go is also a great hack for writer’s block. Jumping the tracks when you hit a roadblock and moving onto another project for a bit keeps you productive, keeps you motivated and lets your mind process whatever is holding you up.
I think the key to being a successful multi-project writer is making sure you can focus on one project when you need to.
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