Friday, September 6, 2013

The Disorganized Word Whore's List

How to managing multiple projects? Anyway you can. I don't say this to be cavalier. I say this because I'm the organizational polar opposite to Word Whore Jeffe. Spreadsheets are instruments of the devil. But like Jeffe, I dislike crunch time - those last minute pushes to complete something. The curse is that I'm good at crunch time. The problem? It comes with a price and not just one that impacts me. My family pays, too. And that's not fair. So while I'm pathologically allergic to spreadsheets and a particular type of organization, I do my damnedest to be the tortoise, NOT the hare.

The Less Organized Word Whore's List for How To Manage Multiple Partne. . .Projects:
1. Ritual - create a place where all you do is work on writing. I admit I get a little anal about it. Same begin time, same end time, same place, same chair, same tea. It's a great big hand reaching into my brain to flip the switch from 'the rest of my life' to 'creating now'.

2. Goals - Know what you want and when you want it by. Here's the big thing I struggle with - I'm good for a promise I make to other people. I am not quite as good with promises I make to myself. Why is that? What message have I absorbed that makes me less worthy of keeping a promise to? If you're not keeping the deadlines you set for yourself, this may be your issue, too. Examine it. Figure it out. Fix it. Recruit professional help if need be to work through that. This is the one place where those evil spreadsheets seem to help. My CPs set up a shared spreadsheet where we all input our daily word count goals and then what we achieved. Something that simple has made it easier for me to keep track of when and where I'm failing to keep my promises to myself. I can subsequently get back on track.

3. Lists - Usually, when there are multiple projects to be managed, the bulk of them are in my non-writer life. There are cats to get to the vet. Parents in hospitals (two this past week - it's been a messed up week - both are fine, thanks.) Groceries to get, gas to put in cars, doctor appointments, bills to pay, clients to call. But occasionally, I'm trying to get word count on one book while an editor is awaiting rewrites on another book. My lists go by the week - Monday to Sunday. So as a list of deliverables grows for the week, I can see at a glance whether I have the bandwidth to ADD extra hours at the computer for the rewrite, or if I have to set my word count goals aside. Something I can easily do because while Jeffe's 'Half Again' rule is excellent, I liked the Star Trek model - you know - Captain Kirk asking Scotty if he always inflated his work estimates by a factor of four. Scotty answered that of course he did - how else could he preserve his reputation as a miracle worker?)

So far, this system has worked well, even as I work to increase my productivity on a slow, steady basis. Granted, I have a prioritization system, too, one that resembles KAK's but it's much shorter. 1. Keeping life in the living 2. My sanity 3. Everyone else's sanity 4. Everything else in the world is gravy.

The prioritization system gets applied to everything on my list. Amusingly, vacuuming on a regular basis is a P1. Cause if the floor crunches beneath my feet? Someone's gonna die. But look. Writing isn't a priority 1 in my system. It's a P2.

I *treat* it like a P1 as long as I can, but when the phone calls about the parental medical emergencies came in, I could drop my writing schedule back to P2 and deal with the family issues. By treating writing as a P1 when I can, I develop a habit. Something that's easy to get back to so I can pick up where I left off in a story. Or a rewrite.

In the end, I think back to acting school and something my teachers all said. "If you can do anything else besides acting, you should." It turns out, I *could* do something besides act. Lots of things, as it happens. But the one thing I can't NOT do? Write. Even if I never published again. Even if no one ever read another word of what I wrote. The stories have to escape the confines of me. If they don't, I'm only half living.

If the stories start to drown you, too, when you aren't writing, then it won't matter how many projects you have going concurrently. You will find a way to juggle them all. Your sanity and your life may depend on it. I hope you'll tell us how you do it. Coping skills enrich us all.


  1. I like your comment about promises you make to yourself! and I also resonate with the point that the one thing I can't stop doing (besides breathing which actually I have done and then survived, come to think of it) is WRITE!

  2. I *totally* forgot about Scotty saying that - love it!