I read recently how Stephen King works only on one writing project at a time, and previously how Iain Banks refuses to think ahead of his current project. I sometimes long to be that focused, but and generally glad I am not.
Not to say I am liking myself to those two towering genre authors, but the whole principle of being focused purely on one writing project does not fit the way my mind works. Perhaps it stems from a long career as a freelancer (not as a writer), where effectively juggling multiple, simultaneous projects mean the difference between a reasonably predictable income, and deep depressions of near poverty.
[aside]only by overturning it can you discover its hidden treasures[/aside]
I thought I would list my current writing projects (projects being defined as those ideas in active development – or actual writing – rather than merely some-day ideas), and the total came to six. When I say six, I actually mean thirteen as three of the six consist of multiple, individual sub-projects. (It all gets more complicated later.)
Having such limited time to write is a major contributor, I think. If Project A needs a little thought before the next phase, then I can always continue to work on Project B, or C, thus not having to beat myself up for not getting any “real” writing done.
In the interview linked to below, King also mentions that he does not jot down new ideas: “If you can’t remember it, it was a terrible idea”. Clearly he has a better memory than I.
Solid ideas do tend to stick around, but more than one of my current and future projects sprouted from discovering some old idea notes, adding to them, forgetting them again, then rediscovering them once more (rinse and repeat).
I do not like losing an idea. As my project list demonstrates, I am not short of ideas on what to write. And the current list does not include the trash-bin of ideas that simply did not work out.
That’s the key, I think: keeping a hold on as many ideas as you can because they all deserve some measure of exploration. You can walk right past a stone, but only by overturning it can you discover its hidden treasures or its lurking snakes.
We are all different in how we stumble upon, dig up, trip over, or nurture our ideas and projects. I find it fascinating to learn how other writers do it.