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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

How to Make the Most of Multiple Writing Projects? It Depends!


Thanks to Theresa for her comment and questions about managing Product Time for multiple writing projects.

So Many Options

You can structure Product Time for multiple projects in multiple ways. For the sake of example, let’s assume a writer who commits to 15 minutes of Product Time a day, 5 days a week. (Your actual Product Time commitment might be 10 minutes a day, 4 days a week, or 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week, or some other combination.) Hypothetically, this writer could:

  • decide each day which one of the multiple projects to work on for 15 minutes
  • divide 15 minutes between different projects
  • spend 15 minutes a day on a single project, altering projects throughout the week, for example, 15 minutes on Project A on Mondays and Wednesdays, 15 minutes on Project B on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 15 minutes on Project C on Fridays
  • spend 15 minutes on Project A in the first Product Time session of the day and another 15 minutes on Project B in a second session
  • rethink the whole idea of multiple projects and choose just one primary project.

Which option SHOULD you choose?

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

It Depends

First and foremost, your choice depends on what works for you. Just because an approach works for me, or your writer-friends or a famous author, doesn’t mean it’s your best approach. Trust yourself and your own process.

Effectively managing multiple projects also depends on:

  • Which of three writing routes you’re traveling
  • Which of six stages in the Creative Process each project is in
  • the scope and genre of each project
  • How much time, creative energy and focus you have to invest
  • Where your resistance is most active.

We’ll explore these factors in upcoming posts.

Process vs. Product Time

Theresa also asked about balancing Process with Product Time, so I want to clarify the distinction.

Process is creative play for the sake of play. Process is time focused on being in the creative process, not on the “product” that is the end result of the process.

Product Time, in contrast, is time devoted to any of the multitude of tasks required to create a written product: a poem, play/screenplay, essay, story, article or book.

The time you allow yourself to play creatively is independent of the time you devote to creating a piece of writing you’ll share with others (the product). Increasing your Product Time should never decrease the time you give to Process. You can increase the time you spend in Process if you like, but never reduce or skip it to gain Product Time.

Some writers fear Process will deplete creative energy they need for the writing work they do in Product Time. On the contrary, done properly, Process play restores creative energy because you’re not fretting about how it will turn out, what someone else might think about it or if you’ll end up taking an unexpected direction with your materials.

Just as Self-care is designed to maintain your physical and mental energy and optimize your brain’s creativity, Process recharges your creative energy and maximizes your creative capacity. Sources of the research that supports this are detailed in chapters 3 and 5 of Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance and listed below.

Based on my experience and the experiences of my students and clients, I am convinced there is an exponential increase in the value of the three habits I recommend – Process, Product Time and Self-care. Doing one habit will certainly help your writing, but doing two habits doubles those benefits. When you establish and sustain all three habits, you maximize your creativity and make your entire life more joyful and gratifying.

Practicing all three habits is particularly important when you work on multiple writing projects.

Sources

Alexander Alter, “How to Write a Great Novel,” Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2009, Accessed on January 25, 2012, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703740004574513463106012106.html

Anna Wise, The High-Performance Mind: Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing and Creativity, 1995, Tarcher, 2–12, 158.

Brandon Keim, “Digital Overload Is Frying Our Brains,” Wired Science, February 6, 2009, accessed May 12, 2011, from http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/02/attentionlost/

Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, 1987, Graywolf Press, 32.

Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer, 1981, Tarcher, 72.

“Exercise Outdoors Brings Even More Benefits,” accessed August 24, 2010, from http://www.elements4health.com/excercise-outdoors-brings-even-more-benefits.html

Gwendolyn Bounds, “How Handwriting Trains the Brain,” Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2010, Accessed on January 25, 2012, from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518.html

Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, 2006, Penguin.

John Medina, Brain Rules, 2998, Pear Press, 15-17, 84-88, 152-153, 163.

John J. Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, 2008, Little Brown, 3, 40, 51-56, 58-61, 66, 70, 102, 121–122, 138.

Judith Horstman, The Scientific American Brave New Brain, 2010, Jossey-Bass, 31-34, 66-67.

Maggie Jackson, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, 2008, Prometheus Books, 93.

Matt Richtel, “Your Brain on Computers: Addicted to Technology and Paying a Price,” New York Times, June 6, 2010, accessed August 31, 2010, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?ref=your_brain_on_computers

Matt Richtel, “Your Brain on Computers: Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime,” New York Times, August 24, 2010, accessed on August 30, 2010, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/technology/25brain.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=your_brain_on_computers

“Media Multitaskers Pay Mental Price, Stanford Study Shows,” accessed August 24, 2011, from http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2009/multitask-research-release-082409.html

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1996, HarperCollins, 112–113.

Naomi Epel, Writers Dreaming, 1993, Carol Southern Books, 44.

Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, 2007, Penguin, 256.

Pierce J. Howard, The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, 2006, Bard Press, 56,  58–59, 190-193, 204-207, 617.

Richard J. Davidson, John Kabat-Zinn, Jessica Schumacher, Melissa Rosenkranz, Daniel Muller, Saki F. Santorelli, Ferris Urbanowski, Anne Harrington, Katherine Bonus, and John F. Sheridan, “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 65 (2003): 564–70.

Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, 2005, Grove Press, 31.

Sharon Begley, “Buff Your Brain,” Newsweek, January 9, 2012, 30-33.

Sharon Begley, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, 2007, Ballantine, 68–69, 212-242.

Stuart Brown, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, 2009, Avery/Penguin, 17, 33-34, 41, 43-44, 58-59, 61-62, 71.

Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart, Paths Are Made By Walking: Practical Steps for Attaining Serenity, 2003, Warner Books, 18.

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2 Comments on “How to Make the Most of Multiple Writing Projects? It Depends!”

  1. Theresa December 29, 2018 at 9:20 am #

    Morning Roseanne :).

    Thanks for dealing with my question. Millions of your future readers will look back and wonder who I am. 😎😂. ( I’m joking / teasing, of course.)

    One more question. Should Process Time always/usually come before Product Time? Does it matter, as long as I get both in sometime during the day?

    Here’s my situation. I wake up at 4, feed the cats, finish my early routine, and then try joing the 5 AM Writing Club on twitter. This is the only time I can be sure is regularly my own.

    I’m struggling with a blank mind lately at that time, but I know it’s stress; your breathing ideas help. But there’s no way I can fit in Process Time before Product Time in the early mornings.

    I wish I had a TARDIS and the Ninth Dr. so I could shift around in time. I just refuse to get up earlier than 4 AM!

    Thanks,
    There’s

    PS. I wish I could come to your classes. I’m several hundred miles away, so that’s not going to happen. 😦

    Have a great new year.

    Like

    • rosannebane December 31, 2018 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Theresa,
      I’ve gotten other questions about Process vs. Product Time lately, so watch for a more complete answer coming in the next month or so. The short answer is Process and Product Time do not have to follow one another. I usually do Process in the afternoons or evenings and Product Time in the morning, myself. There’s no way I’d get up earlier than 4 am, either. If you find a TARDIS, occupied by any of the Doctors, please come pick Claudia and me up in Minneapolis.

      Like

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