Thursday, June 16, 2011

Irons in the Fire

How much stuff do you work on at once? When I’m deep in a project, like the play script I wrote in April, that commands most of my focus. Deadlines also help – the challenge was to finish the play before the end of the month.

Now, two months later, I’m a little out of focus. A little fuzzy around the edges. Here is what is currently going on – I have an idea for a very short theater piece for an Society for Creative Anachronism event coming up in the fall, I have a new novel idea I’m working on based on a creative challenge from my wife, and I have an unfinished web comic script for my sister-in-law. Not to mention the other usual bits of creativity and weirdness that typically occupy my mind.

I don’t know that human creativity is necessarily a limited pool. Spending it here doesn’t mean you will have none left to spend there.  But let’s be real – your time is a limited pool.  And actually working on a project takes time. So, how many irons can you have in the fire at once? For me, things get done when they are given  priority.

So, based on my previous experiences with my own brain, this is what I predict will happen: The play script will jump up in priority after I figure out when it is due – i.e., what is the date of the event and how much lead time before that will be required to mount the production? The play is short and will probably be finished in a comparatively short time.

The novel suffers from the opposite problem. It isn’t short and I don’t expect to finish it soon. I predict the novel to be worked on in intermittent bursts of creativity as cooler versions of scenes present themselves, causing me to re-think and rewrite the little bit I’ve already done.  I hope to eventually achieve a kind of critical mass, where ideas lead to ideas and a the old snowball-rolling-downhill effect occurs.  There is a certain point, if I can reach it, where successfully completing the work becomes exciting on its own.

Not sure about the web comic script – I suspect there will be some outside demand from that quarter coming down the line.

Authors tend to bitch about deadlines, but they have a certain value. Its the things that I need to get done that I do get done. So here’s a bit of writing advice to round out this otherwise overly personal blog entry – if you are having trouble getting motivated to finish your story, try promising it to someone else. Set a realistic, achievable deadline and tell someone about it. Find a way to make it a priority.

Now I just need to take my own advice.