Talking to my friend Ashley the other day, she told me how she felt that maybe she was taking on too many projects at one time. I totally understand that feeling. I think every writer does, particularly at the start of the career when you want to take on just about any project that comes around so you can quickly build up your credentials Unfortunately, that’s also an easy way to get overwhelmed because writers are afforded the same twenty-four hours as everyone else.
In theory, taking on a bunch of projects is manageable, provided you keep some pointers in mind. I’m going to use myself as a lab rat for this because I love to be experimented on. Also, because I know what’s on my plate and not yours. I think that these basics can be applied to any writer at any point in time because they’re simple enough to adapt as your workload changes over time.
Match Deadlines with Density
As of this writing, this is what I’ve got on my plate:
- 13,000 words for my novel No Tomorrow due at the end of August.
- Two 500-word reviews for Carpe Nocturne due by mid-November.
- A 2,000 to 3,000-word story for the Roar Shack reading due September 8th.
- A research essay for Spry Literary Journal due as soon as possible.
- The next installment of my Andre Ursler series for Arts Collide due as soon as possible.
- Get Kill-ifornia ready for launch as soon as possible.
The first thing you’ve got to do is get a comprehensive picture of the work you’ve got ahead and what sort of time frame you’ve got to work with. Don’t leave any project overlooked, no matter how small. The last thing you want is a micro-fiction deadline to sneak up on you.
Perform Literary Triage
Once you’ve assessed your workload, it’s time to cut it up into manageable pieces. I tend to prioritize things based on deadlines. My novel, for example, requires that I get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. That means I have to make some progress on it every day; at least a couple of thousand words. Because the stuff I have to do for Carpe Nocturne is a small amount stretched out over the next three months, I can afford to delay for a little while so I can get my story done for Roar Shack. Furthermore, my essay for Spry is in Revision-Land getting feedback from other writer friends, and that means I’m on a short break from it. The Arts Collide piece runs about a thousand words, and I’m nearly done with the first draft, and for now Kill-ifornia is in a brainstorming phase.
Your Battle Plan
What this assessment tells me is that my workload is low-intensity in spite of how many items I’ve got on my to-do list. With the delay in Carpe Nocture and the Spry essay, that brings the list down to four items. I work on the novel daily, brainstorm for Kill-ifornia for about an hour, and then alternate day to day between Roar Shack and Arts Collide. When I finish the draft for Arts Collide, I can take a break from it and return to the Spry essay. By next month, I should have Arts Collide, Roar Shack, and Spry done and submitted. And voila! Half of my to-do list is done!
Find Time Whenever You Can
Even with this plan of mine, I’m always looking for free time that I can use to my advantage. For example, my work today for Kill-ifornia took only about five minutes as the other writers and I work out a time to have a video conference for our brainstorming session. Last night, I told myself to expect to dedicate an hour to it, but now I got an hour that I can spend on either No Tomorrow or the Roar Shack story.
Tackle that Motherfucker!
Not that my plan is set up, I need to commit to it. Don’t worry about the long-term plan, because then you’ll fixate on your entire plate rather than the smaller portions you carved out. For today, I’m just going to focus on the book, the Roar Shack story, and Kill-ifornia. My Andrew Ursler story will be there tomorrow. Carpe Nocturne will be there next month. Right now, I’ve got only three things to worry about, and one of them has already been taken care of. Commit! Commit! Com-motherfucking-mit!