Two Tips For When You Need To Focus On A New Creative Project (But You’ve Already Got Several Others Too)

2016 Artwork How To Handle A New Project article sketch

Yes, I know that I’m breaking my “don’t blog about blogging” rule for at least the twenty-seventh time, but – as always- I have a good reason for doing so. Today, I’ll be looking at what to do if you start working on a new creative project, when you’re already creating and posting things online on a regular basis.

I’ve dealt with this subject a few times, like during the five days that I spent writing an interactive horror/comedy story called “Acolyte!” in late September/ early October and I thought that I could offer two useful tips.

1) Efficiency: Back when I was writing “Acolyte!”, I didn’t have as much time or energy to spare for my usual daily articles and art posts. But, although I had a fairly large buffer of both articles and paintings, I didn’t really want to let this dwindle too much. So, instead, I worked out ways to spend less time and energy making art and writing articles.

This is why, for example, some of my articles from earlier this month (yes, my article buffer is several months long) feature recycled title art. Believe it or not, creating and editing the little title graphics at the top of each of these posts can sometimes take up to half of the time it takes me to write a blog post. So, I was able to save time during those five days by just re-editing some of my existing title graphics using MS Paint.

Likewise, many of the articles that I wrote during those five days were either fairly short or they were fairly rambling. I’ll talk more about how I wrote those articles later, but they were articles that were easier and/or quicker to write than most of my articles are.

As for my daily art posts, I’d fortunately started a series of minimalist limited palette paintings (which were posted here in January) before I’d started writing “Acolyte!”. As such, it was fairly easy for me to continue making these paintings, albeit with less background detail, when I was writing “Acolyte!”.

I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that, you need to find ways to spend a minimal amount of time and effort on your pre-existing projects whilst still working on your main project. If you can come up with ways to create filler content, then this can also be useful too.

Although this might seem like a lot of extra effort, it’ll help stop you losing momentum on your pre-existing projects. This means that, once you’ve finished your new project, you can get straight back to working on your old projects again with a minimum of disruption.

2) Similarity: Back when I was writing “Acolyte!”, almost all of the blog articles that I wrote were about interactive fiction. Likewise, most of the art that I made during this time was related to the horror genre too.

Why did I do this? Well, it was both to allow me to write articles and make art quickly, but also to prevent me from losing focus on the horror/comedy interactive story that I was writing at the time.

Since I was devoting a lot of my mental energy to writing interactive fiction and coming up with horror-based ideas, making sure that all of my other projects (eg: these articles and my daily art posts) were as closely related to these topics as possible helped me out a lot.

Since I didn’t have to think about any other topics, I could switch between writing daily blog posts, making art and working on “Acolyte!” fairly quickly. The lessons that I’d learnt from writing interactive fiction earlier that day could easily be turned into blog articles and, since I was already daydreaming a lot about the horror genre, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with ideas for horror-themed paintings.

So, if you’re working on a new project then, if possible, try to make your pre-existing projects as similar to it as you can get away with. Not only will this make you more inspired, but it’ll mean that you’ll be able to jump between projects a lot more quickly too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Creative “Triage” For Multiple Projects

2014 Artwork Creative Triage Sketch

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.

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Anyway, I hope that this has been useful 🙂