Today’s letter answers a question I received from an author:
Q: What are your thoughts about working on multiple projects simultaneously, either as an editor or as a writer? I always feel drawn to write two things at the same time, and then feel like I shouldn’t, and then wonder how I would make it work if I did.
A: In general, if you feel drawn to more than one project, I’d encourage you to pursue them! As long as you’re not limited by something like a contractual deadline (in which case I’d definitely advise focusing on the contracted project first), at worst you’ll learn something about your creative process and decide to return to focusing on a single project. On the other hand, you may find the new process invigorating and inspiring.
Either way, you’ll be in good company. While many artists find that they work best when focusing on a single project at a time, many others have taken advantage of fertile creative periods to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Beyond some particularly famous examples, like Dolly Parton’s “good writing day” and Brandon Sanderson’s record-breaking Kickstarter, working on multiple projects can allow you to continue making progress even when you feel stymied by a particular manuscript.
Since this sounds like it would be a new process for you, I’d suggest approaching this as more of an experiment. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I work on multiple projects simultaneously?” Notice how this change affects your writing routines. Do you feel as if you have more or less time and energy to write? Does writing feel easier or harder? Do you feel as if your creative capacity is stretched to the limits, or as if it’s expanded? Do you find it easy to separate the projects, or do they start to blur together? Do you feel more invested in one idea than the others?
It can also be helpful to pursue projects that are in different stages, categories, or genres. For instance, you might begin brainstorming a new project while you’re working on line-by-line revisions for a full draft. Or perhaps your projects are for different audiences; simultaneously writing three young adult romances is a very different experience than simultaneously writing a picture book, a middle grade fantasy, and a young adult romance.
This approach is similar to how I structure my work as an editor. I prefer to focus on developmental edits for one full novel at a time, though I enjoy pairing these deeper dives on longer manuscripts with other types of work—such as picture book assessments, query letter reviews, conference presentations, and editorial coaching and consultation. Other editors undoubtedly work differently!
Likewise, your writing process will be different from other writers’ processes and may shift from book to book or in different periods of your creative life. No one’s process is perfectly balanced, predictable, and unchanging. Approaching the writing process with a flexible, curious mindset—rather than a rigid, judgmental one—can help you to anticipate, accept, and perhaps even welcome these shifts.
Thank you for the question—I’d love to hear how this goes for you.
Your Editor Friend,
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