Saturday, February 9, 2013

Writing/Art Tips: Dealing With Project Sprawl

Hello, fellow creators!

While I was working on my lego comic, and debating on drawing some more cover art for a book I'm almost done with, I was networking and writing my local news blog and...

...And I realized I have a problem.  See, I have a lot of projects on my hand at any time.  Sometimes I get commissioned to write an article, while other times I just end up in a pointless debate with someone on the internet.  Most of the time, though, I'm working on a book.  And there are lots of them I'm working on, and lots more that I've de-facto abandoned.  That's probably the greatest shame, because I've written them all in my head!  Just not on paper!

But if I were to start on them, then I'd leave other projects un-done, and therein lies the problem.

Focus On One Thing?  Hah!

Some people's first bit of advice is to pick one thing to focus on at a time.  For many people, that works - and if you're that lucky, hey, good for you!  Put that talent to use.  But many others find themselves always waking up, each day, with a different "feeling."  Maybe some day they feel like writing, while another day they feel like painting.  If they don't write, their manuscript goes unfinished; but if they try to force themselves to write when they want to paint, well, nothing gets done except for the denial of the true desire!

In my case, I wanted to write this article because I was working on the cover-art for my next novel, and realized that I was all over the place in terms of goals.  There's so much I want to get done, but so little I can.  It's a problem.  So I decided I needed an image that really demonstrated this feeling, and showed what "Sprawl" is.  Creating the above picture took me about 20 minutes.  True, I learned some new GIMP tricks that, had I known them earlier, would have sped the process up!  But it's still a significant expenditure of time, especially when time is unpleasantly short.

So what's my answer?  Well, one thing is to try to have a schedule.  "Day one, work on project one.  Day two, work on project two."  Whatever it is.  Sometimes, however, my daily life limits me to only having 15-20 minutes of "Creative time."  This forces me to pick something I can get done quickly, or at least something I can make a major contribution towards.

Truly, sprawl is a problem.

The Answer Is Patience

Most of all, I feel like I'll never get something done in time.  That the book cover will take so long I don't want to do it; that finishing a novel will take forever; that doing the research I need to perform in order to properly establish my older novels as viable is just going to be a brick with which I can bash my own head, and little else.

And none of that is true.

See, I'm young.  I'm 28.  But even if I were 68, I'm probably not dying tomorrow.  I'm probably going to wake up tomorrow and have time to work on my next idea.  The biggest reason why people seem to differentiate into working on dozens of projects at once is because they don't know how to be patient, to put their ideas on paper until the ones they're already executing are complete, and come back to it later.  That's right - patience.

For me, it's patience to know that, yes, this cover-art will get done; yes, the book will be released; yes, I can re-release old ones, and - finally - I can put out new material.  I can clear this massive plate I have in front of me, and I can think about new ideas and not feel like I have to immediately act on them in order for them to ever happen.  The key?  If they are strong enough ideas, they will be there when I'm finished with what's got me busy.

For others, I'd recommend the same - or, at least, a conscious evaluation of which projects should take priority and should be the subject of the most effort.  Immediate performance and financial income isn't the only guideline, here; existential reward and personal satisfaction matter, too.  Each person will be different, and there's always some creep, but sprawl should be kept to a minimum - before it gets out of hand, and nothing gets done.

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