Been working on a new thing this week. Surprisingly, this isn’t me getting distracted and butterflying off; it’s actually a core part of my plan.
Working on a single project at a time, from start to finish, without a break, is not an efficient way for me to work. Many other creative folk I’ve talked to have said something similar, though this is not a universal approach. Incidentally, I slightly envy the people who are able to focus on a single project from start to finish without interruption, month after month without loss of enthusiasm, but only slightly. This is because I think that this monoculture approach is a suboptimal strategy for creatives, as I’ll explain.
There are several reasons you might want to have more than one project on the go at once.
The first is that any creative endeavour benefits from being put in your desk drawer and ignored periodically. Once you’ve got your first flush of ideas down and have battered it into a functioning draft, you’ll have a stage of testing and improving. That gradually loses steam, and this is when you can shelve it for a while. Not that this break needs to be very long – a day will do at a pinch. Longer is more effective though.
When you return you’ll be refreshed, invigorated, and enthused with new ideas to fix old issues. You’ll be better able to see the odd gaps, the rough edges, and the darlings that need murdering. If your work includes any text then your ability to edit it improves immensely for the fresh eyes you see it with after a break.
I’m a firm believer in recruiting my subconscious to help with work in a somewhat structured way. To me, my subconscious is like another person I can give awkward puzzles to and move on while they fix them. They may be unpredictable and scatty, but they usually come up with the answer I need in the end. The trick is to give it time to work in its own way, and preferably time when I’m not trying the same thing consciously. This makes swapping between projects very effective. When you get stuck on one you pose the problem to your subconscious and move on to the other project while your back brain gets to work. After a few days you return, and you are likely to find yourself with a slew of fresh ideas to tackle what had stymied you before. At least, it works like that for me.
Note that it’s better if this pair of projects is planned rather than accidental. This allows you to consider synergies and efficiencies of resources beyond your time. It also allows you to choose projects that complement each other in terms of time of type to make the most of the change from one to the other. I find it best if you pick two quite different projects to emphasise the change. It’s also better if you focus on a single project each day. Sleeping is a great reset.
So, the idea is to have two different projects on the go at once, and work on one of them each day. You already know the working title of Project Shuriken. My second project is currently rejoicing under the codename Project Fishsticks. More of that soon.