Something that happens to me a lot is that I have more projects I want to work on than I have time to work in. It isn’t really possible to take time away from work if the bills are still going to get paid. There are other things that have to get done every day – meals, transit, exercise, time with family … we all have our own specific limits on our time. If you freelance like I do, you probably have your day divided into specific time blocks during which you can try to get everything done.
Even if you aren’t a freelancer, blocking time can be effective to help you get things done. Essentially, you figure out how much time you have available in a day. For me, this could be all of my waking hours, but I don’t recommend that. If you don’t have a job to report to, I’d recommend you plan for 10 hours available in a day. The other six will be eaten up in random family time, personal care, mealtimes, etc. If you do have a job, be sure to take out the time you already have scheduled for work, including getting ready and making the trip to and from your workplace, and other daily routines. What’s left is your available hours.
Make a separate list of the things you want to accomplish – writing your book, engage in a new creative project, start a new fitness routine. Now combine your two lists, deciding how much time you have each day for each of the things you want to do. If you don’t have enough time in a day to fit it all in, try alternating days with a specific activity. Maybe you do a heavy workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and you focus on flexibility and stretching on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
But what do you do when you suddenly get two projects competing for the same time slot and alternating just won’t work? For me, this happens with my creative writing projects which necessarily also must compete with fast-turn ghostwriting projects that won’t fit into the work blocks.
Find the Fusion
If you read my creativity post from a few weeks ago, you’ll know that I don’t like to dwell on the negative too much. Every time you look at a challenge as a negative or an enemy of whatever you want to do, you create a real block in your energy flow. Your mind tends to focus on the idea of being blocked and that’s where you stay. This creates a sharp divide between where you want to be and where you are with no clear path on how to move past it.
But not every meeting of opposing forces needs to be negative. Think about some of the opposites you know:
- Hot and cold – when they meet they can create an ethereal mist, changing the landscape into something otherworldly
- Day and night – when they meet, they produce a magical purple twilight period
- Black and white – when they meet, they introduce all those wonderful shades of gray that provide the world with nuance and interest
Instead of focusing on the block as a block, try thinking of it as an opportunity to fuse. Where can this project fuse with another project to perhaps create something new and magical that you hadn’t planned.
My Block Fusion
As I’ve been working to finish catching up work I’d fallen behind on from recent events, I also managed to acquire a new ghostwriting project. My work hours are already full of other commitments, so ghostwriting needs to bleed into my creative writing time at least in the short term but I already have five titles I want to be working on. It would be easy to look at this situation as a complete bottleneck. No way can any of this be done!
But that isn’t true. The ghostwriting opportunity came just as I was trying to figure out if it would be viable to rotate four different stories through four days of the week with maybe a fifth given over to Delta Shadows. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep everything straight doing that or how it might work in terms of NaNo. My fusion came when my client mentioned he’d be willing to share credits for the work – something we’ll be talking about more as the project moves forward.
For now, it has provided me with enough flexibility to talk about the subject of the book in general terms, it gives me a definite project to work on for NaNo that is completely new, it doesn’t pull me away from my desire to work on Delta Shadows, and it doesn’t even necessarily take up additional time. Plus, because it is paid work, it can flow between work hours and creative hours with ease as the opportunity presents itself, opening up time for other projects in either category as the month moves forward.
How about you?
What do you think – is it cheating to work on a paid project during the NaNo period? It is completely creative, a completely new work, fiction, and needs to be at least 50,000 words – we’re actually planning on twice that. Since the goal for everyone in NaNo is to have the work published and eventually hopefully make money from it, it’s hard for me to see what I’m doing as much different, but I’m curious about what you think. Also, I know some of you work on multiple titles at a time. How do you organize that and keep your stories (and characters) straight?