|Photo by JessicaGale at morguefile.com|
Emotions in the Wild: A Writer's Observation Journal was once one of these great ideas that I knew would take a lot of steady work to complete (BTW, have you seen the new cover design?). But I did complete it. What worked for that project was how very structured it was. Composing it required identifying key emotions, developing observation exercises for each, and seeking evocative quotes to open each section. Having the structure made it easier to ping-pong among these tasks as mood and energy directed and still progress.
A big takeaway from that project, which took about six weeks to complete, from concept to launch, was to begin fun, end challenging. Overcoming initial inertia is the most difficult part of writing, so dive in with what's easy, fun, or grabbing your imagination. Then, switch to the parts that are challenging: hard, un-fun, and not grabbing your imagination. Because you can, to use a cycling metaphor, "draft off" of that earlier effort like it's another cyclist breaking through the wind resistance for you so you can keep up your speed with less expenditure of energy.
Journaling is a super helpful tool for juggling projects, too. Last summer, when I had the added issues of kid at home from school and an elderly parent needing a lot of help, I kept a couple of running lists. One was of goals I'd set for myself, some with deadlines, some without. The other was where I simply reported what I'd done that day in moving toward each goal, and talked to myself about where I was blocked, where I needed to do more research, where I had doubts or worried about a particular project or section of it.
If you tend to be an internal processor like me, journaling like this can be a powerful self-help tool. It requires you to begin articulating problems instead of just holding them in your head where they drain your energy (see The Need for Emotional Processing for more on this concept). Talking yourself through an issue can take you farther toward finding a solution. Continuing to circle back to those stuck places and brainstorming will, with time, get you unstuck.
Keeping running lists and journaling becomes a kind of reward system, too. You can look back at the items crossed off (I am a fan of using strikethough in Word document lists) and see progress. That sense of accomplishment will give you a hit of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, research says.
Do you tend to juggle multiple projects? What helps you steadily make progress?