Every now and then I feel like my brain is empty (see my previous post for details of that awful affliction). But most of the time, I feel like my brain is in compete chaos. Ideas, stories and characters jostle to be heard and sometimes it’s a fight to the death. I have been feeling pretty bad about not being able to concentrate on just one thing – feeling a little scatterbrained to be honest, starting work on one idea in the morning, only to be working on something completely different by the end of the day. Then I read this post over at the Kill Zone blog about Isaac Asimov, and it all made perfect sense. The story says that he worked on multiple projects at a time, and had several typewriters on the go at once, each with a different story in them, so he could work on whatever it was that took his fancy. When he was stuck on one, he got up, sat down at another typewriter and kept going on something different.
This appeals to me for a few reasons, but not least of which because it sounds just like me. I have several stories on the go at once, all in different stages of production. I find I can focus on finishing one WIP only once I am past the half-way-ish mark of the manuscript. Before that though, the plot is still percolating in my brain, and sometimes, when I’ve been working on, say, my children’s fantasy for a few hours, my main character for my new YA novel will pop into my head with a new scene, so I must write it down before my brain gets a chance to filter it out. If I get on a roll with that one I just keep going with it until it peters out, and I go on to something else. I try not to jump around too much though, and try to spend a few hours or few thousand words on each project before skipping out and cheating with something different.
Several of my Support Crew think I’m totally crazy for working like this, and tell me that perhaps the reason I struggle with finishing any of my WIP is because I have too much on my plate. But the truth is, I am slowly working my way to the finish line with each of my WIPs, and as long as I’m going forward with something, I’m not treading water with anything.
It also allows me to not put too much pressure on myself to get something done, and so far I have managed to stave off writer’s block pretty well using the Asimov method. I think writing is kind of like cooking – once you know the basics you work by feel. So once I get to the stage where I feel like a ms is starting to take off, I run with it. I know when I get on that roll and I can be cooped up for hours, days even, taking advantage of it. But I can just as easily be sitting on the lounge listening to music or watching a movie with a notepad beside me writing down plot-points or character traits or other notes about totally random WIP as I they pop into my head.
Sometimes, I feel like I have so many ideas running around in my brain, that if I don’t get them down onto paper, they’ll be lost forever – or they’ve annoyed me so much that I’ll feel guilty working on my current WIP while trying to both ignore the new idea and not forget it. Sometimes I just think “hang it” and don’t work on anything at all. I like to take a break from it all every now and then, especially when some distractions are just oo hard to get away from – like getting in a brand new kitchen, as is happening right this minute.
I like working like that though. I enjoy working like that. And it’s probably the reason why doing NaNoWriMo this year will be such a big test for me. I’m not sure how I will go trying to concentrate on just one story for a whole 30 days. I guess I will just work around my preferred style, and keep a notebook by my side to dip in and out of other WIP if I feel I’m getting a little stale on my NaNo novel. And maybe only take notes on other WIP instead of getting in too deep with scenes and only after a set word count.
I think the lesson is that no matter what anyone tells you, you eventually find your own way. Writing has been such a solitary, secret and personal thing for so long now that I need to just trust my instincts – even when people with the best of intentions tell me I’m stark raving mad for trying to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.