The first month of 2016 is rapidly winding up. I had three projects – two planned, one that emerged – I wanted to make significant progress on before the 31st rolled around:
- Transcribe and edit screenplays and write the introduction and conclusion for a compilation book;
- Write and begin edit for a locative story through VoiceMap;
- Write an article for online publication about making an improvisational quilt inspired by sci-fi films and get started on the quilt.
Over the course of the month, the screenplay compilation book morphed from “here are some screenplays I wrote, please read them” into a creative process book on using prompts to go from wanting to make art to making art. I was so excited with the new direction that I went ahead and completed the e-book formatting and designed a cover for it as well, things I wasn’t planning to do until February. The only parts remaining are coming up with a title (always a problem) and completing the copyright/Kindle publishing checklist.
The VoiceMap project was a completely new process for me. Fortunately, I had the helpful staff at VoiceMap to guide me through the steps of mapping the route, writing the story, and recording my voice. It was an intense couple weeks in mid-January. I thought the whole thing would take much longer than it did, but before I knew it, my route The Moongate was accepted and posted. Even though the two feet of snow here has delayed me testing it out, it is still completed way ahead of my initial planning.
The sci-fi inspired quilt idea was something I came up with several years ago. Then, a call for geeky craft article submissions at the beginning of January got me to focus the idea a bit more and toss in the improvisational element. This was probably the most difficult project for me this month. The quilting part is great. I’m a few seams away from completing it. The hard part was figuring out what the article would be. I tried a number of different takes, stumbling around and feeling totally unsure of what I was doing. I was anxious about all of it and completely lacking in any confidence.
I pushed through the anxiety with the quilting piece and submitted it yesterday. I don’t know if it will be accepted for publication, but at least I’m satisfied with the article. After I sent the article off, I looked back over the schedule I made for February. I had planned on starting a new project writing a novella, which I would publish in installments on Wattpad. I haven’t written a novella before and I don’t know much about Wattpad. I tried to work up the energy to get started with it on Monday and my brain ground to a halt.
I had reached new-and-challenging-project saturation.
I walked with Matt to the train this morning and I talked about being unsure what I should do next. Should I jump into the novella since I still think my idea is cool and the release strategy on Wattpad is worth exploring? Or should I work on the second novel beta draft since I’m familiar with how to rework a novel and maybe the familiarity would be a good idea right now?
We talked about why I was feeling pressure to decide since, truthfully, it didn’t really matter which one I picked. Maybe my problem with choosing wasn’t about which one was the right project to work on, but that I was trying to force myself to choose right now and get to work right now.
Matt said I had a lot in common with small business owners. Business owners can feel a lot of pressure to make the right decisions while also trying new things, because they don’t want to feel like they haven’t done enough or that they missed out on an opportunity. So, they push and push until they get decision fatigue and become muddled about what their goals are for their business.
I can identify. Wanting to work, wanting to feel productive, and caring a ton about the work I’m doing definitely leads me to do a lot of different things. Sometimes I don’t know if the things will help me reach my artistic goals, but how will I know if I don’t try?
New things are exciting, and they take a lot of creative capacity to work through all the newness. The problem comes in when the creative capacity gets depleted. My creative capacity at the moment feels like a big glass jar with a couple houseflies buzzing around inside it, plinking their wings against the glass as they desperately try to escape.
Matt said big projects need iceberg time. There is a mountain of time needed to think about, organize, and create something good, but there isn’t always a coinciding mountain of visible results. A small, neat wedge of white doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the huge craggy mass underwater that keeps the whole thing afloat.
Post-project down time is a hard lesson for me to learn. I guess I need to study more.