Recently there seems to be some kind of editing virus going around. I’ve read a lot of blog posts, tweets, and general comments about writers who are currently having trouble moving forward with their edits. Apparently it’s contagious, so beware!
On a more serious note…
There’s a lot of advice out there about what to do when you’re stuck on one phase of the writing process. Editing, as was the above example, or writing the first draft (my eternal illness). As I do with most advice, I read it, consider it, and still do my own thing. That’s INTJ, for you. (Unless it’s some damn good advice.) But I am curious to know how others push past that “stuck” stage. More specifically, I want to know: How many of you guys work on more than one novel at a time? And if you do, why do you feel it is necessary? What motivates you to work that way? And do you finish things, even when you have multiple projects at once?
To combat stagnation, I’ve found that I do best when working on multiple projects. It relieves the stress of the project that’s bothering me while allowing me to focus on something else for a while—something that interests me, something that is coming to me more naturally at that particular moment. Meanwhile the project that’s giving me trouble percolates in my head (subconsciously), and when I finally figure out how to solve the issue, the answer typically snaps into my mind (usually at an inopportune time) as if someone has flipped a switch. If I suddenly excuse myself in the middle of a conversation, please forgive me. Writer brains are unpredictable little beasts. The lights are always on.
Working on multiple writing projects doesn’t mean that I have a short attention span. Quite the opposite. I’m capable of focusing on many things simultaneously and for long periods of time without entangling them. The reason this works well for me, I think, is because I’m both an academic writer and a creative writer. The upside to this combination is that I can satiate my need for logic and objectivity when I’m contemplating my more ‘scientific’ work while the creative side of me rests and stews and energizes. And vice versa, writing creatively often inspires me to work on something more concrete. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had story ideas, characterizations, or resolved plot issues flare up in the middle of school-related things. Or how I’m inundated with research ideas just as I start a battle scene in my novel. The two sides are like oil and water sometimes, but they are cohesive and interconnected within the overlapping spheres of my mental writing web.
But in addition to the simultaneous barrage of both academic and creative things, I also enjoy (and need) the variation of multiple creative projects. Working with different facets of different novels helps to stimulate my creativity and tends to speed up the process of finding those “difficult” narrative answers. Sometimes I get answers to questions I haven’t even asked yet for a project totally unrelated to the one I’m working on at the given moment.
If I need to feel like I’ve completed something, I work on poetry. Sometimes a poem will take a month. Sometimes a day. But it typically has a clearly defined end in sight, which is a lot more than I can say about my novels. If I don’t feel like writing, then I edit, because that requires a different type of focus. A more concentrated method of thinking. A specific arrangement of objectivity. Simply put, I need to shake up my thought process every now and then. I need to constantly give my muse something to chew on, something to digest. I need change and challenges. If I don’t, I get bored. I get stuck. I get frustrated. I stall.
So how is it for you guys? Do you singlemindedly focus on one project. Start one, finish it, then move to the next? Or do you have a plethora of projects and choose the one that suits you at the moment? How do you decide? And how does it work for you?