Over the past couple years I have spent hours, days, weeks even, scouring internet publications, forums, blogs, and the like with the intent of learning more about writing. I have learned quite a bit that has helped me develop as a writer but I still felt like I was blindly mucking through things (sometimes I still do). I mainly looked for an answer on how to effectively discipline myself as a writer. Many people offered their $.02 but ultimately everyone mentioned doing 'whatever works for you.' That was the universally accepted system-- "whatever works for you." The Holy Grail.
Here is my story:
Since I have made the decision to really try my hand at this writing endeavor, I have been coming up with more ideas than I can ever manage. Not wanting to waste any moment of inspiration, I would write them in notebooks, on post-it's, napkins, my hands, other people's hands etc. I have a slew of emails I have sent to myself with ideas, character names, cool lines, etc. that are just waiting to turn into a project. Wanting to give them ALL attention I tried starting multiple things at once, and that just led to failure. So I tried a new approach where I gave all my attention to one work in process ignoring any other idea, hoping that a focused approach would help me get at least one thing finished. This approach worked for about a week until I ran into a difficult part in my novel, so instead of battling through it, I stopped writing altogether. Not surprisingly, I discovered that not writing at all isn't exactly an effective way to become a writer.
Then around September I started writing again, I tried to not overthink it-- just write. I started a new project and it took off. I didn't want to commit exclusively and risk the previous failure, so I kept doing little bits of other projects at the same time. Never more than two at a time. Miraculously it has worked. I have finished some really small projects and managed to complete 50 percent of the novel I started in September. Most importantly I have been a consistent, and somewhat disciplined writer. I think I have found that Holy Grail of "whatever works for you" that so many other writers mentioned.
The gist of the system:
- Let the ideas come, don't censor them because I have too much on my plate
- Keep one project going will full momentum, commit as much as I can
- When ideas come for other things, I spend chunks of time on them to get them to a sustainable level
- Keep addressing these little ideas, but don't lose momentum on the main project
As I mentioned before my background is in bioscience, so I call my writing method the... Wait for it... The DNA Replication approach. Yes I am a nerd, but it makes sense to me. I untwist all my creative thoughts (helicase), work on one major project (leading strand), take the secondary projects (Okazaki fragments) one at a time and give them time (lagging strand) while not losing momentum on the main project.