Balancing multiple projects

Balancing multiple projects

Something I continue to struggle with is knowing where to apply my energy at any given time. I have so many goals, so many projects, and they all seem like Highest of All Possible Priorities. Even if I manage to get them sorted by priority there is the Inspirato Factor that might keep me working on something lower priority just because I’m in the zone.

That’s what I’m trying to figure out today. I have some specific goals this year, and one of them is time-sensitive: I need a short story that I like enough to use it to apply to Clarion West. That needs to be done by February. I’m under no illusion that the next story I finish is going to be The One — or the second, or possibly even the third. I need to produce a bulk of work over the next few months so that during the first part of 2010 I can select the one I like best and polish it until it shines.

So there’s the priority: short fiction. Lots of it, in completed form. What’s the problem?

The problem is I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with my head in the draft of a novel, and I have What Happens Next pretty well figured out. Novels being the enormous efforts that they are, I am loathe to move on to something else and lose the steam.

I don’t know what the solution is. Right now I’m toying with the idea of applying some techniques from my day job to managing these projects. I have been working on a treatment for the novel, by which I mean something more detailed than an outline but less formal than a synopsis. I have basically the first four chapters planned in a fair amount of detail, both new material that needs to be written and the existing material that needs rework. I could view those four chapters as ‘a project,’ work on it ’til it’s done, and then move on to the first short story, work on that ’til it’s done, plan the next couple of chapters, rinse, repeat.

The only thing I have to lose is time, but time now matters to me in a way that it never has before.

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