There was once a writer — it might be Isaac Asimov — who liked to have a number of projects going at the same time, so he had three typewriters in his office. When his inspiration ran dry on one, he’d hop over to another typewriter and work on project two or three. For this author, switching off seemed to energize him and fuel his creativity.
This strikes me as the literary equivalent of juggling three balls in the air. While that’s a lot to handle, I’ve found that when you’re working on a big, absorbing project, it’s easy to become so immersed that you get lost in it. That’s why having a second project under way can provide some balance and perspective.
Just recently, my friend and mentor Coach Tully and I came up with an idea for a book project that we’re really excited about. We’ve started meeting to toss around ideas and come up with a structure. It’s loads of fun working together. While there’s always the danger that this can distract me from my top priority — getting my YA novel submission-ready — I also see some real benefits to having another writing project on tap. Five spring to mind:
It’s energizing: Working with total focus on one writing project day in and day out is the only way to make steady progress. At the same time, once you’ve passed a certain point, this kind of relentless intensity can lead to burn out. One antidote is to switch gears.
It’s entertaining: Working on a novel is all about world-building and character development. This new project is totally different: it’s a quick, breezy how-to guide. It’s fun to wrap my brain around a whole different set of ideas and challenges. It’s also great fun to work with a congenial writing partner after flying solo on my novel.
It’s relaxing: This new project is just absorbing enough to attract my attention while also letting my mind take a rest from the more rigorous demands of my novel. I’m confident that while I’m working on this how-to book, ideas for my novel are percolating.
It’s revealing: I’m confident that as I noodle ideas around for this new project, I’m going to learn something useful that I can apply to my novel. To my mind, one kind of writing that I do in a sustained way feeds into other forms of writing. The more I write, the better a writer I become.
It’s satisfying: For my YA novel, I’m going the traditional publishing route. For this new how-to project, independent publishing makes sense, so it should move quickly from premise to print. That’s exciting and satisfying, because I’m looking forward to sharing it with my KWD community and other aspiring writers when it’s ready. Having total control of the book process promises to be a learning experience and a refreshing prospect.
How about you? Does working on more than one project help or hinder you? I’d love to know. Write on!