About a year ago, I did a post about the Multipotentialite Writer, and while it was kind of useful and kind of cathartic, I was young and in the grip of a feverish writing phase. Since then I’ve…grown. I’ve fallen in an out of writing a couple of times since then, so I thought I’d share some of the new things I’ve learned in an almost year.
Writing as a multipotentialite can be difficult. It comes with a host of what most writing teachers and advice-givers would call problems. Namely, that if you’re a multipotentialite, you won’t want to write all the time. I don’t mean every day – few people really feel like writing every day – but there will be week- or month-long periods of time where you’re interested in something else.
It could be another writing project or something else entirely, like knitting or sailing or cliff diving.
And according to writing experts, in order to be prolific and write well, you need to a) write every day and, b) finish what you start before moving on to a new writing project.
I’m here to dispell the idea that we need to conform to general advice, because general advice for us in careers doesn’t apply, so why should this?
We don’t believe in sticking to one career, one passion, on interest, or one hobby forever, so why do we find ourselves feeling guilty when we dragged away from writing?
There hasn’t been much discussion about multipotentialities and writing specifically (apart from me navel-gazing, that is), so let’s dive in, shall we?
You need to make peace. Make peace with the fact that your writing process and journey is going to look different than the podcasts, author interviews, and craft books you’ve ingested. Make peace with the fact that it will take you longer to finish some projects, especially longer ones if you’re the type of multipotentialite whose interests vary quickly. Make peace with the fact that you will feel guilty for leaving projects undone, and it’s up to you to move with the guilt and the fear and the uncertainty.
You don’t walk away from fear, you walk with it.
Figure out your system. This could be a rotating priorities board, specifically set up for writing projects, or even a simple calendar. It could be that you can hack your own interest system and schedule enough varied things to keep yourself from getting burned out on any one thing.
Let’s say you know you like blogging, writing stories, and working on RPG design (ahem, me). So you schedule certain days for one thing and certain days for another and allow some wiggle room so you don’t feel constrained. So this week, I scheduled at least twenty minutes a day on writing my story, which comes out to around 500-1000 words a day. That’s a good pace for a novel. Then three times a week I schedule time to write a blog post or work on a longer one that needs some research or just time for the ideas to percolate. Then I make sure I work at least once a week on RPG design, to keep my creative skills flexible.
But let’s say that one week I get really invested in my RPG stuff while my story has hit a snag and needs some time in the ol’ subconscious factory to work itself out. Do I rigidly stick to my schedule? Nah. I could, and it might be an excellent plug for willpower and self-discipline and all that, but I’m going to capitalize on the fact of my interests and make as much headway with the RPG stuff as I can.
This all comes from one very simple idea.
Know yourself and know your interests.
I know that I love story writing more than any other kind of writing. RPG is definitely third on the list of my writing projects. But it’s still on there, and every now and then that bug will hit harder than the others. It won’t stick around forever; eventually, story-writing will come out on top again as usual. That’s how I operate, and I know I operate that way because I’ve been living in my head for so long. Living and observing. If I wasn’t aware of my own modus operandi, I wouldn’t know how to make this schedule. So if you’re just starting out, try out the rotating board before you make a schedule, and maybe keep track of how often you rotate.
Keep writing, every day. This one I keep going back and forth on whether it’s really a good idea or not, and I’ve heard so many opinions from so many people I think there just won’t ever be a good answer. Yes, as a multipotentialite we need to be allowed to let projects go and work on other things, but as a writer, I also know that leaving my writing for more than a few weeks makes me a really bad writer when I do start again. The time spent not writing is proportionate to the time spent getting back into a good writing state. My voice gets rusty, and it usually takes quite a while for me to find it again when I go too long without writing. It happened last year before NaNoWriMo; I hadn’t written anything between the Flash Fiction and October when I started prepping, and it showed. I tried writing a few things to warm up and they objectively sucked. I was out of practice and flabby.
And the way to avoid that is to write as often as possible. So I’m going to say this, with certainty. If you want to become a professional* writer, you do need to write every day or at least every other day. Just as in any other profession. Athletes, singers, heck, probably even business people need to practice their skills all the time or they a) lose their jobs or b) lose their edge. How many Olympic swimmers take month-long holidays?
People will still argue, so I say that you know yourself best, and you can decide (duh). But if you want to be prolific and write a lot of amazing books and hone your craft and edit like a champ…well, you need to be prolific.
But never feel guilty for taking time off. Balance in all things.
If you’re a multipotentialite writer, where do you find yourself struggling? Like me, do you have both outside interests and other writing projects that distract you?
*I realize that there’s a lot of debate going around about writing to make art and writing to make money, and how they should or should not cross. It’s an interesting discussion, and one I’m eager to get in to. Soon, friends. Soon.