Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's a Good Idea to Have Multiple Writing Projects Going at Once

If I think I must write one book, all the problems of how this book should be and how it should not be block me and keep me from going forward. If, on the contrary, I think that I am writing a library, I feel suddenly lightened: I know that whatever I write will be integrated, contradicted, balanced, amplified, buried by the hundreds of volumes that remain for me to write." --Italo Calvino

There are lots of good reasons why you should operate on the principal of multiplicity--multiple writing projects, projects at several phases of completion or incompletion, multiple genres. Maybe especially multiple genres. Try to balance many writing projects at once.

-multiple phases: you've got at hand notes toward one project, a handwritten rough draft, a freewrite, a middle draft, a document that recently received feedback, and another document that is at the proofreading and final phase. In no particular order of value: the notes are not less valuable than the nearly completed piece.

-multiple genres: you've got at hand a poem draft, a piece of creative nonfiction, a journal entry, an email in-progress, a draft of a scholarly article, part of a book proposal, etc. In no particular order of ability: you don't judge one genre as less valuable because you are less of an expert in it.

Why it's helpful? Because multiplicity mirrors the constant flux of our internal talk. The calmest and probably most productive writer is the type of person who follows flux, so it makes sense to establish working conditions that both foster and mirror flux.You'll want to cultivate an appreciation for impermanence as much as possible in your writing practice. Providing yourself multiple opportunities for writing (i.e.: keeping many genres and phases on stock) allows your mind to embrace change.

Writing in more than one phase is helpful because it's a way to take charge of the proximity of audience in your thinking. At certain moments, you may want to keep that audience very close to you in your thoughts (i.e.: an advanced draft or editing). At other moments, you may want your privacy from other people; you may want to write by yourself, without concern for what others might eventually think of your work.

Writing in more than one genre is helpful because if you are anxious about Task A, you can consult strategies and dispositions you developed to finish Task B, from another genre. You can tap into a previous positive writing experience. Specifically, you can borrow the positive audience dynamic inside another genre if your current thoughts about audience are an obstacle. A genre like poetry, for instance, carries no (or at least minimal) commercial expectation which can be liberating for writing prose. A transactional genre like an end-of-the-year report can be helpful in developing a rebuttal for a scholarly article.

Start each writing session by turning to your mind and asking, "What is it I'm interested in working on right now?" And accept whatever reply your mind provides.

Someone might say that keeping so many types of writing on-going feels too scattered. You shouldn't feel scattered if you stay true to the changing moment as a writer. What you'll have is a single focus: on the moment. In other words, to be focused in the moment means staying focused on the moment. Each moment is a full subject by itself--is a still-life--is a thesis statement. Drafts and project phases are particular moments you're already invested in. They're earmarked places in a moment. Like a candle or sounded bell in meditation.

* Image provided by Flickr

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