Writers have to juggle many balls to keep everything going.
I’m not just talking about keeping in mind characters and plot and setting and themes and future cover design as we’re typing away.
As well as marketing and promotions, ad buying and organic reach on twitter and facebook.
And keeping up with the distractions from those we love while keeping up with our day jobs so we can pay the bills and a host of other time-suckers.
I’m talking about all of that.
As well as our many many projects that we need to keep up in the air.
Without dropping a single one.
For the Truly Resolved: Juggling 3 Balls
Writers need to keep the primary project at the fore. That’s the first ball.
Focusing on the primary creates a steady pattern of work.
When we need a brief break from the primary, we can turn to the secondary project, already advanced on the burner.
Turning to the secondary gives us a chance to work through the draining lags that might make us quit on the primary.
The secondary project may be at the research or character development or scene blocking stage. It may be in its Winter, waiting for a final proof.
Highest ball in the air, that’s a third project. It’s at the simmer stage (yes, I’m mixing metaphors.) We make notes on this third project as the mood strikes.
For the Over-Achievers: Juggling with More than 3 Balls
I’ve heard some writers talk about having four projects in the works.
I can only manage two active projects and one barely in the simmer stage.
And a couple that I think about occasionally. 😉
If you can juggle four projects—one in focus, another at the research stage, a third waiting for proof, and a fourth merely simmering—go for it. I can juggle that many for a little while. At some point, one of the balls gets dropped.
All the balls drop when I become intent on finishing the focus project. I become laser-sharp on that one.
Notice: I didn’t say completing the focus project. Remember from the blogs on creativity? We need to give ourselves a little objective distance from what we think is finished before we call it completed.
Set it on the back burner and little it simmer a little while.
Do keep it in the air, ready to shift back to primary focus. (Am I juggling 3 metaphors now?)
And with other projects already in motion, we can easily pick them up and keep working, accomplishing more and more of our goals for the year.
Juggling Life: a Reminder
When we move from finishing projects to completing them, we need to celebrate. Now is the time to tell others what we have accomplished.
Somewhere, I think it was Pinterest, I came across the following: uncredited and totally anonymous but absolutely genius. I’ve seen it other places since then. You can find various versions, most a little more foul-mouthed (foul-typed?), which people tend to like.
Don’t Tell Anyone.
Smash the hell out of them.
Clap for your own damn self.
I quibble with only one part of that: the “clap for your own damn self.”
When we celebrate the completion of a project (not just finishing, remember?), we need to let people know. If you’ve completed a manuscript AND you’ve followed Robert Heinlein’s advice and put it on the market (whether by sending to a publishing house or an agent OR by publishing it yourself), then celebrate with family and friends.
That celebration gives us something to anticipate as we grind through the drain-times of the next project.
Completion of projects and celebrating that completion will energize us as we enter the next project. No longer do we feel like Sisyphus, rolling an impossible boulder up an impossibly steep mountain. We know we can do it.
We’ve done it. We can do it again.
Thanks for joining us this month. As an early Christmas gift, here’s a short video from YouTube showing Penn and Teller juggling in China: