“Truths” are a very dangerous thing when you’re a writer. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule for whatever element of writing you might want to think of, and no shortage of ways to second-guess yourself. It’s a double-edged sword, in that the whole enterprise of writing fiction is inherently subjective thing: the good thing is that many different people have different ways to approach the same problem. The bad thing is that a writer, in a moment of weakness and panic, might think that these things are absolute rules and if you don’t follow them you’re doomed to failure and a career full of mediocrity.
I’ve figured out that a lot of these “rules” are nothing of the sort and have led me down some blind alleys in my career. The problem is that these things can sometimes become so much of your approach that you’re not even aware you’re obeying them. I’ve outed another such nasty little one recently: the matter of which works you should focus upon.
The truth is, I thought focus mattered. I thought that focus would save me, help boost my writing career. I’d struggled with finishing works during my early career, so focusing on one work at a time would help me get through the Big Thing on my plate, right? The problem is that my mind just doesn’t work that way. I need constant stimulation – I believe the correct term is “neophile“:
Neophiles/Neophiliacs have the following basic characteristics:
- The ability to adapt rapidly to extreme change
- A distaste or downright loathing of tradition, repetition, and routine
- A tendency to become bored quickly with old things
- A desire, bordering on obsession in some cases, to experience novelty
- A corresponding and related desire to create novelty by creating or achieving something and/or by stirring social or other forms of unrest.
Honestly, only one of those fails to fit me, and I’ve been that way forever. I have a need for novelty and a need to constantly be in motion, even if only in my mind. As a child, when my writing consisted of dreaming up scenarios for a series of comics that I wanted to one day create properly, I would be listening to music, or possibly watching television, as I worked. Some of that has become more difficult as I’ve aged, but it still applies. I’m often writing or reading as we watch television.
I thought it was only a matter of taming that spirit to get what I wanted from my writing. Focusing on certain works would make me more efficient, right? Turned out that “truth” was crap, and a big reason why I’ve been experiencing frustration and burnout. So this weekend I gave myself permission to work on several things at once, and the dam burst. I’ve hit word counts that I haven’t touched in a few months, and I can see movement toward a couple of stories now, stories that are targeted for release by the end of the year.
Turns out that editing is not enough for me. I need to be writing new material as I edit, or I wither on the vine. The content of the new material doesn’t necessarily matter; for example, as I write this entry, I’m working on converting MP3 files for my other site, writing an entry for that site, editing Room 3, and working on a short story entitled “On the Air”. I don’t know, it works for me, and I think it’s the way to keep going.
So what about you? Do you work on several works at once? If so, do you find it gives you a significant advantage in avoiding burn-out?
Sadly, Found Music did not get an update last week, but it’s back this week, and back strong, with a great collection of punk covers by Denver band Nobodys:
I can hear some people rolling their eyes already. “Great, another album full of ironic punk covers’. I thought the same thing when I broke the shrink wrap and realized what I had, but nothing of the sort. This album is instead a love letter to the bands they’ve toured with – including bands such as the Queers, Chixdiggit, and Guttermouth. The jacket even features pictures of members of the Nobodys with the bands that they cover here. It’s such a damned cool idea that I’m surprised I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Check it out here.