When I finished editing the second draft of Trollbooth a month ago, I realized I had a few different projects I needed to work on this year. Some of them have firm deadlines; others are more open-ended, but all are important to me. I want them finished, and I want to share them. I can’t do that when I’m bouncing from story to story, letting only my muse guide me along. Ideas get smothered by newer ideas. Life distracts. And let’s face it, writers are always telling themselves stories, even when they don’t write them down. That’s why I call my “hopper” of ideas The Imaginary Playground. It really is like grade-school recess in my mind, with bunches of ideas all doing different things as they clamor for my creative attention.
So I decided what I needed was a plan, and not just the kind where, daily, I say, “Okay, tomorrow I’m going to work on insert title here. I needed something I can look at, because I’m much more accountable if said accounting takes place outside my mind. To that end, I created a document called The Manifest.
Just like a list of cargo on a ship or truck, The Manifest is a listing of all the projects I’m currently working on, plus all the projects I want to work on for the rest of this year and beyond. There are 15 items on it; 8 of them have project start and project end dates on them. The other 7 are organized with labels like “Fall 2015,” or “maybe 2015?” or even simply “2016.”
Seeing my creative work in such a stark and un-artistic list is strange, but I tell you what, it’s helping. I’m much more aware of how much I can get done in a given amount of writing sessions. I’m always motivated because to waste that time is to invalidate a big portion of how I live my life. And on top of that, The Manifest isn’t held, updated, or audited by anybody else, so it can be a little loose. If I need a few more days for a project, that can be done. If I find I need a month or more, I can schedule it into The Manifest so I’ll actually get back to it with a vengeance. That kind of thing is important to me, and now I feel like I have less worry on my mind.
Tomorrow I will return to Trollbooth. I’ve pencilled in 2 months for the typing up of 2nd draft changes and the 3rd draft (hopefully faster) edit. It seems like a reasonable amount, but I’ll see as I go along. My goal is to be done before my vacation in May. Today I need to find a good stopping place for the story I’ve been working on (a new novel called Werebear!) and then make myself enough notes so I can figure out what the hell I was talking about, when I get back to the story later this year. I think that’s both fair and do-able, to myself, my priorities, and the demands of my life.