Do you have any tried-and-tested hacks for living with mental chaos?
I’m especially interested in tips and tricks for wrangling creative projects with lots of choice and no right answer – in my case, my WIP.
Right now, I feel as though I’m swimming in story soup. Not quite drowning, but definitely up to my chin 🙂 . It’s been happening since I got some momentum going with this latest manuscript, and the more I write, the wider the floodgates open. Ideas and images, characters and situations are bombarding me from all sides, and as I have a multi-book story arc, some of it is quite far down the line and will be story gold eventually, several books and a year or two hence.
I manage pretty well organizing hard, factual, real-life challenges. I can prioritize a heavy workload and make hard choices when I see that the must-do’s aren’t all do-able. I can figure out what I want from a mortgage or a pension. My problem is that the techniques I’ve always used, the ones that are second-nature to me, don’t work in this situation and might even be counter-productive.
And that’s because my writing process is different from my process in other areas of my life. Everywhere else, I’m a planner. I have lists. I narrow my field of vision, prioritize, defer and discard. I’ve tried multiple times to apply the same approach to my writing, and it’s been a disaster. I write sequentially and I have a very general idea of my overall story, but my more detailed attempts at outlining have been an epic fail. I think it’s because (thanks, Chuck Wendig) characters poop plot, plot does not poop character, and the best way for me to get my characters to poop plot is to put them under pressure and start writing.
I think I’d move the story along faster if I could narrow my vision and put some of my story soup in the freezer for later, but I have this gut feeling that the quality wouldn’t be as good. I seem to be getting the best results from keeping my focus as wide as possible. My WIP is doing well, it’s my head and my notebook that are giving me fits.
I’m very happy with my draft and excited about the story’s potential, so I think I have to embrace the confusion. I just wish I could find a way to help my brain get comfortable with this new normal.
Is it just me?
Maybe I need a trick to ground myself when I start feeling overwhelmed, until I learn that having so much material at my fingertips is a desirable state of affairs, not a problem.
If you have any advice or experience to share, I’d appreciate it!