Too Much, Too Many

Too Much, Too Many

I'm in a tizzy half the time these days, readers. With a bit more free time and warm weather on the rise, it seems that a new writing idea is growing on every tree, popping up out of manhole covers as I walk down the street, tapping me on the shoulder as I sit in my chair. I've started half a dozen short flash fiction pieces and have two short stories partway in the works, and I'm still working hard on a major revision of my novel.

It's great to have ideas, but there comes a point when your brain starts shrieking, too much, too many! My attention is scattered to the four winds as I struggle to bring any of these projects home. There's just too much pulling at me in these different stories I'm crafting. Have you ever had this problem? Have you been working on three poems and a novel and two stories and that creative essay for school all at once? The feeling can be exhilarating, but having too much going on can actually lead our work to suffer. What will happen is that when the going gets tough on one story, I'll just effortlessly jump over to another project - and if I keep jumping this way, dodging any difficult work or giving up when one story doesn't please me, I'll end up with ten unfinished projects grumbling in a drawer.

So how do we rein ourselves in, and prevent the work from flapping away from us like a flock of startled birds? The key is a little bit of focus and discipline, and a good dose of one thing at a time.

One day, one project: I know it's hard to limit yourself when so many delightful projects are calling for you from your computer or your notebook. But remember that all projects will suffer if you don't give each project the attention it deserves. Start by having a day designated for each project. Today is story day, you will tell yourself, and no matter how unpleasant the work on this story becomes, I can only work on it. I'm not allowed to play around with something else until some good work on this story is done.

Don't cross the streams: different places, different stories. Another problem of working on multiple projects is getting your ideas and language muddled from one to the other. If you want to paint in red, paint in red; if you want to paint in blue. But if you try to paint everything in the same space, everyone knows you'll just end up with brown. So designate a certain place for working on particular projects, whether it is a geographical place, like the coffee shop or study hall, or a more mental place, like this notebook versus that notebook. Be strict in your designations. And work hard on a story. Don't give up on it until you're absolutely sure that it's time to let go.

With a little compartmentalization like this, you can work on multiple projects at once - but without some planning and focus, you'll end up letting all those exciting ideas die. Don't let them!