I just finished spiral-bound notebook number 2 of my short story collection (which, as mentioned previously, was originally all hand-written) and I must now dig up notebook number 3 wherever it may have gotten shuffled around to in our various and sundry cleaning up. (Ever the bane of someone without an organized office space: Stuff gets moved around, sometimes a lot, and good goddamn luck finding a specific/important item at the crucial time when you finally come to need it.)
While it felt good to get that far, I also realized how long this particular project is taking. While it seems against the grain of the advice I gave in that previous post, the fact is that long projects take a toll on me, at least psychologically and I’m sure on some level physically. As I’ve said before, it’s the nature of the creative type to be blessed/cursed with infinite possibilities for material to work on, all zigzagging and bouncing around in my head.
I figured that was part of the reason I took so easily to writing (usually very) short stories: Here’s a thing. It’s written fast and done and I can move onto the next thing I want to write. Probably another thing of about the same length. Or shorter. They can be hammered out quickly, albeit with all due care and honing to make it the best it it can be.
But by their nature, longer projects take more time. They’re funny like that.
And the flipside of getting a longer project done is ignoring all the other stuff that blips distractingly into your head (or is revisited, or can be built upon that other thing you thought of a few months back, etc.) Which isn’t to say that such material is ignored wholesale. I’ve long written it into notes on computer or my phone — most recently, I took a proverbial page out of a book from good friend and sometime project co-worker Deryk Ouseley, who carries unlined notebooks with him everywhere and jots down or draws anything and everything that occurs to him — but suffice to say, the inklings are recorded in some form in some place and then, at least until I can get the current project done, ignored.
But working on longer projects does come with a price.
I like getting stuff done. But not just progress made on it, I’m talking about it being finished. Because then it’s out of my head and can be revisited later to send into contests or whatever, but it also means I can start work on the next most pressing (or exciting) project. So while I do have genuine interest in longer projects — I’ve written several feature-length scripts, this current short story collection is hell and away my longest prose, and I have other ideas that have struck me as decidedly books (rather than movies or comics or some other format) — I’m also leery of starting them, knowing as I do how long it takes me to get through them. And I know that I’ll be ignoring a lot of other stuff I’d also like to do (always right now), which gets tiring.
Maybe a key part of finishing longer stuff more quickly and efficiently is just focusing more on them to get them done faster; not entertain (at least for unduly long) other ideas that pop into my head. Write them down, then immediately back to the project at hand. Don’t let myself get caught up in things like short story contests that can keep rolling on and on. Or at least *gasp* maybe plan ahead for those kinds of things, so they don’t waylay my longer project but are instead accounted for and dealt with and easy to get back on track from.
So more Head Down And Writing Words and less Head In Clouds And Indulging In Too Much Distraction From The Project At Hand.
Gotta get there.
Update: Just after making this post go live, I was walking away thinking about how it’s almost like there’s a super villain (a robot, for some reason) named Distracto, and maybe he could be the arch rival of a superhero who’s trying to vanquish him in order to not be distracted!
… and then it occurred to me that I was distracting myself. It’s self-perpetuating. I can’t even put up a post about the downsides of being so easily distracted by my own thoughts, without that post itself creating more thoughts that distract me.
Spiral-bound notebook number 3, dumbass: Find it and keep going.