A few days ago realisation hit me – I am lucky enough to be spending 6 days a week writing. I guess that makes me a full-time writer… Ok, it doesn’t, especially as only 3 of those days are paid. But across those days, I have to handle multiple writing projects, and it can be a real challenge. I’m sure many of you know the pain (unless you only ever focus on one writing endeavour, but how many of us have that luxury), so I wanted to come today and tell you a bit more about how I handle all of my writing projects.
My writing projects
My writing can be divided into two types:
- writing I do for work
- writing I do in my private time.
The writing I do at work is definitely much easier to keep organised, because it has a specified date and time – I go into the office three days a week, spend a bit over eight hours there, and in that time I research and write blog posts for the company blog, create social media posts and help produce content for our application. Although it’s sometimes hard to find time to do all of it, it’s reasonably manageable – every morning we have a little meeting and agree what needs to be done that day. There. Writing organised.
However, the writing I do in my free time is a different story. Although I am determined not to have two novels, five short stories and three blogs going on at once (mostly by forbidding myself from starting another novel, even though I’ve a bunch of ideas), I am still not a single-project person. I am a double-project person – I have a book and this blog. And both require my time and attention, yet there are only so many hours in a day. When I’m writing for the blog (or doing other stuff for it, like social media, research, reading books for the ‘Writers Readers’ series), I feel like I should be writing my book. When I’m writing my book, I feel like I’m neglecting the blog.
It’s a vicious circle. A never ending cycle of I-should-be-writing-that-other-thing.
When I’m writing for the blog, I feel like I should be writing my book. When I’m writing my book, I feel like I’m neglecting the blog.
Feeling guilty while you’re writing is probably the worst thing that can happen to a writer, because it stops you enjoying the writing process. And when you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, can you really get lost in it, give it your all? I don’t think so. And I also don’t believe there’s great writing without enjoyment and commitment. Sure, there can be decent writing. But not great.
That’s why you need to learn how to handle your projects, so they don’t start handling you. But how do you do it?
Method 1: Follow your heart
a.k.a. Write whichever you feel like writing
This is a method I’ve been using for the last (almost) 8 months and I have to say, it bloody didn’t work for me. I used to only have the blog, but when I started writing the book in late October 2016, the number of my long-term writing projects increased to two. I didn’t really have any plan on how to handle it and, as a result, this blog suffered very badly. If Arguably Honest was a plant, it’d have died by now, I was so neglectful. Because writing a book felt just so much more fun and creative, and when allowed to just follow my heart, I tended to choose the novel over the blog.
The thing is, you are unlikely to ever love your projects equally, there will usually be one (or more) that you enjoy more than others. It’s normal, it’s natural. But with the ‘follow your heart’ method, you are likely to essentially abandon the ones you love less. If they’re not important to you, that might be fine. A good way to find your focus. But if you actually care about all of them, then this method is likely to get you lost, frustrated and feeling guilty. That’s why I genuinely don’t recommend you just follow your heart (sounds very un-artistic, doesn’t it?).
Method 2: Follow your head
a.k.a. plan your writing time
I’d say, in general, following your head is the right choice. Both in writing and in life. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends how you look at it), I was not born one of those writers who sort of hover a few centimetres above the ground, and can’t quite wrap their heads around reality.
That’s why I believe you should consciously divide your time between your writing projects.
How? Well, there definitely are tons of ways to do it, and you’re best off finding a way that works for you. I will tell you about two ways in which I do it – and hopefully they’ll help you find your own way, or maybe you’ll just borrow one of mine.
- The morning/evening divide.
You might be a morning person, you might be a night owl, or you might be neither, but I’m sure you have a time in the day when you produce the best writing. Personally, I enjoy writing either in the morning or in the fairly late evening (so around 9-10pm). Morning being 10, not anything like 6. That’s middle of the night, peeps. I started writing this blog post around 5pm and that really wasn’t the best choice, because it’s not my prime time. I like the morning, because my head is still fresh. In the evenings, on the other hand, it’s more quiet and I’m less likely to lose focus.
My method is that I either write everything in the morning (both blog and book), or write blog posts in the morning/early afternoon, and the novel in the evenings. The thing is, even though I don’t really mind writing fiction in the evenings, with a cup of tea, good music, sitting cross legged on the bed, I bloody can’t write blog posts this way. For those, I need a sharper mind, a clearer head, and a desk. You might be the other way round, or your prime writing time might be my very unfortunate 5pm. Either way, it is something that you will need to discover for yourself (or probably already know).
The fact that I am capable of writing my novel in the evenings also means that I can write it on the days that I work. This is a great thing, as I’ve been spending a lot of my free time working on the blog (because of the relaunch and the increased amount of writing I do for it). The after-work novel writing allows me to still give the book the attention it deserves.
2. Specific writing slots
This is the new method I am now applying, and it helps so much with the I-should-be-writing-the-other-thing guilt. It’s very simple – I basically tell myself ‘Ok, Saturday morning will be all about the novel’. This way, when it’s Thursday and I’m writing a blog post, I don’t feel guilty about not advancing the adventures of Jeremiah and Natasha. Or when I spent a whole day setting up my newsletter, I didn’t feel guilty about not writing in that time, because I knew that I would get to write the following day.
You could also set days for each of your projects. For example, Mondays and Wednesdays are for the blog, Thursdays and Saturdays for the book, and short stories on Tuesdays. Or you could have multiple projects on each day, just in different, pre-set slots, e.g. using the morning/evening divide.
I wish I could give you a pre-made solution, but that’d actually do you more harm. It’s best that you discover your best writing time. The time when you will be able to produce the absolutely best writing.
And I know what you might be thinking now. Writers are meant to be spontaneous, artistic, lost in their writing. What I’m suggesting to you here is extremely unromantic. Yet, even the greatest writers have writing routines. Adopting one yourself will make handling your writing projects so much easier. If you are pathologically disorganised, and don’t know how to plan your week, I’ve written a post about it a while back, and you can check it out here. It will help you get started on the way to being organised. Of course, if you have the luxury of being a full time, one-project writer, then obviously you don’t need to do that. But even if you are a full-time writer, with the luxury of all the time in the world, if you’re carrying out more than one project at a time, following your head in how to handle them will save you quite a headache later on when you realise that you managed to abandon something you really wanted to finish.
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