Looking back, it seems like I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I certainly knew it from a very young age: I remember busily writing stories for fun when I was about nine. Back then, I thought only in terms of writing fiction. Natural enough, because that’s what I loved to read. But a funny thing happened as I grew older: I discovered that I simply enjoyed writing for its own sake. It didn’t matter whether I was writing fiction or non-fiction: self-help books or magazine articles; stories for children or novels for adults… I loved it all. (Well, all right. I wasn’t so fond of writing uni assignments, hacked out through late nights with lots of caffeine boosts.)
Lots of writers seem to feel that they have to make a choice. One thing or the other: fiction or non-fiction; stories for adults or stories for children.
That’s not necessarily so. Your ability to manage more than one project does, however, depend on your personality and your ability to keep your work in separate channels. Some people are simply incapable of writing (say) a magazine article on Creative Space-Saving Ideas for Your Kitchen in the morning and a mystery story for kids in the afternoon. Others thrive on it: perhaps because they like to switch from one to the other to keep interest high; perhaps because they need to earn an income through non-fiction while they’re writing a novel.
The key is to be organized. If you groan at the thought of to-do lists and systems, then don’t even try to create a detailed plan. Just begin by being strict enough to allot a sensible chunk of time to each of your projects. You don’t have to fill in a weekly timetable, if that doesn’t work for you. Simply claim at least one block of time for Project #1, and another block of time for Project #2, and then divide the rest of your time as the mood takes you.
If you actually like systems, plans, milestones and lists (as I do… well, what can I say? I’m a Virgo) then you’ll be in heaven. Here’s what systems people can do:
- Name your separate projects.
- Determine the approximate length of time each project will take; give each a starting date and approximate ending date. Build in extra time for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.
- Determine the resources you need for each project (time, information, hardware, software, money, etc).
- Create goals, interim goals and milestones.
- Buy a calendar or diary and mark in the start/end dates, milestones etc. OR use software to help you get organized (OneNote, EverNote, Project Management software etc)
- Clear the decks (get rid of any unwanted commitments or finish other tasks/jobs) and get ready to start on your nominated date.
Software to Help You Get Organized
A great many of you probably already own OneNote (it comes bundled with Microsoft Office Home/Student) and have never used it. If you haven’t, it’s worth exploring. You can create a separate notebook for each project, and then divide it into sections and pages. You can copy and paste information from the Internet into your notebook; create lists, and download templates for pages from Microsoft to help you get organized. (The picture on this page shows a ‘to do’ list for projects, which was a Microsoft template for OneNote.)
If you don’t own OneNote and don’t want to buy a copy, try EverNote. It’s very similar and you can download it free.
A web-based solution (good if you’re already familiar with project-planning software, but want something simpler) is Tom’s Planner. (Free.)