Juggling Multiple Writing Projects
Every week in my writing accountability journal, I have a common theme – stay focused on one writing project. Lately, it’s been my family history stories. Those stories interest me, and I love discovering the details that bring people who lived over a century ago to life.
But sometimes I’m distracted by other story visions that come to me, so I let the family history writing go, and work on my stories about fate and life that came to me while I was writing about a friend’s death; or a cozy mystery series that popped into my head while I was researching my Pennsylvania families.
A break is not a waste of time
When I got distracted at the beginning of the year with my cozy mystery series idea, I was eager to get all of my thoughts down. I thought I had some clever ideas for the mysteries; and the setting and the characters flowed easily from my mind to paper (I love free writing ideas before putting them in an online doc).
So, I put my Blessing family story aside and dove into writing my first cozy mystery. After about 10,000 words, though, I fizzled out. I would stare at the screen and not know what to say, or where to say it. Some days, I would accomplish only 500 words. I was completely stuck – and very frustrated.
I berated myself for the time lost on the story I “should” be working on. I had no idea where to take that mystery story, or if I would ever finish it. Would I even look at it again? It felt like a giant waste of time. Luckily, my subconscious common sense knew better.
Alternating Writing Projects
I thought that if I spread my time out over multiple writing projects that I’d never finish any of them. This week, I realized that I need to work on more than one story if I want to finish them all. But I need to cap it at two, otherwise I’ll lose my train of thought for the ones I’m working on.
I had turned to the cozy mystery idea in the first place because I was getting burned out by the Blessing family story. I couldn’t muster the same excitement for it as I’d previously had. And, when I stalled in the mystery book, I turned back to the Blessing story. Each time, would be a new round of “focus, Lisa” mantras to get me to work on one writing project at a time.
As I was working on my Blessing family story again, new ideas for the cozy mystery would creep into my head when I wasn’t paying attention. I ignored them for a few days because I still wasn’t sure where to take the story. Besides, I was all in on the family story, and told myself I couldn’t waiver this time.
But, then the magic happened. I stopped being so myopic, and paid attention to the cycle of burn out, new project, rinse, repeat. So, I set aside the Blessing story late last week, and spent the last five days focusing on my cozy mystery series.
I can’t believe how much I got done! New ideas came to me, and I was able to move forward and get excited about the story and the characters again. When I hit a wall, I’ll turn back to the Blessing family story with fresh eyes and a new perspective on how to tell it.
It will take me longer to write the two books by alternating, but in the long run, I’ll tell better stories, and not get burned out.
If you’re a writer, how do you avoid feeling burned out?