Well, since I’ve had to either abandon or put onto hiatus a couple of projects over the past few months (eg: “Damania Lite“, “How To Draw” or my current unfinished sci-fi comic), I thought that it was about time that I talked about what I like to call Creative Triage”.
This is something which can be very useful to keep in mind when you’re working on more than one creative project at the same time.
I can’t have been the first person to think of this idea, but the name comes from the triage system that is often used in hospitals and emergency medicine.
Basically, medical triage is a system where incoming patients are put into one of three (or more) categories, depending on how serious their condition and/or injuries are. Those in a more severe condition are treated first and granted the largest share of medical resources and treatment time. It’s a way to make sure that the most good can be done with limited resources.
If you’re a single writer, artist etc… working on multiple projects – then you’ll almost certainly have limited resources too (eg: Time, energy, money, distractions etc..). You can do a lot of good with your creative skills, but this is only really possible if you don’t feel completely overloaded or burnt-out.
So, when things get too much, then it might be worth performing some creative “triage” to both lighten the load on yourself and still ensure that there is lots of good stuff for your audience.
So, how do you do this?
1) Work out how many creative projects you can keep going at the same time: You can probably only really learn this from experience, such as from previous times where you have felt overloaded or burnt out.
But, if you’re lucky enough not to have experienced this, then either go with your gut instinct or start with a small number of projects and gradually add more “expendable” projects until you start feeling overloaded.
If you’re aware of how many projects you can take on at any one time, then you can plan accordingly. If, like me, you only have three “slots” available for projects, then you can use two of them and either keep the third one free for new projects, restrict it to low-stress/low-energy projects and/or dedicate it to projects which you consider “expendable”.
If you know the maximum number of projects you can work on effectively at the same time, it’s also easier for you to refuse (and explain why you’ve refused) any number of new projects which exceed this limit.
2) Assign priorities: Basically, work out which one or two of your projects are the most important. This can be in creative terms, personal terms, financial terms, audience terms, emotional terms etc…
Then work out which ones are the next most important to you and create a numbered list in order of priority. For example, my list would probably go something like this:
1) Art/ daily art posts / deviantART gallery updates.
2) These articles.
3) Optional third “slot” – currently my “Aberystwyth Series“(previously: unfinished sci-fi comic, “how to draw” guides etc…)
4) Fourth projects I’ve started, even though I really should know better (eg: “Damania Lite“, “Ambitus“, “Liminal Rites” etc…)
Once you’ve got a list like this, either memorise it or write it down and keep it somewhere where you can see easily. The next time that you feel “overloaded” or burnt out, then take a look at your list and pick either the first one or two points on it and focus on these. They are the most important things that you are creating and they are the things that deserve all or most of your resources during a creative crisis.
3) Know how to scale back: If it’s not possible to abandon low-priority projects for whatever reason, then look for smart ways that you can reduce the amount of time and effort you spend on them.
This can include things like working on them less often, uploading/publishing them on an easier scale (eg: three times a week instead of daily) or including a much larger amount of filler material (if you need any help with creating filler material, then check out this article).
If you do this, then you can still spend most of your time and energy on your high-priority projects whilst still giving the appearance of still caring about your low-priority projects.
But, if a low-priority project is still draining large amounts of your time and/or energy despite this, then it’s best to either abandon it or put it on hiatus. Remember, your high-priority projects should take up most of your time and energy.
Anyway, I hope that this has been useful 🙂