Managing Multiple Projects


I’m releasing a heavy sigh as I read the title of this article: managing multiple projects. I remember the days when I had no problems with managing multiple projects because I was only ever working on one project at a time. Reflecting on those times, I’m sure life was much simpler back then.

But the world today refuses to let writers work in such strictly demarcated sections. If I start a novel on the first of the month, I will also expect to write a blog article, write this column, read a couple of books and write reviews before the month is over. I will also want to work on a couple of academic papers if time and circumstances allow.

And so I’m now into managing multiple projects.

The computer helps. It’s the third most useful tool available to me. In the old days, when we had to rely on filing cabinets, typewriters, libraries and postal workers, I suspect life was a lot less immediate.

Nowadays I can simply sit in front of my PC and open a document containing my novel. After a five minute read-through of notes, plans and existing material, I’m back in the zone of writing for that particular project and I can stay in that zone for as long as I’ve allotted myself time on the novel.

If a deadline is looming for an article, column or book review, I’ll devote some time to working on one of those projects. Again – our wonderfully modern world means that it’s never more than the click of a button before I can start reading detailed notes about what I want to say, and then a little concentration so I can focus my efforts into saying those things.

Perhaps this is why I consider my diary my second most useful tool.

I have recurring diary reminders for my blog commitments. My diary contains a schedule of books to read and review. And I have a timetable of fiction to write, including deadlines from the tremendous ERWA Calls for Submissions. Later this month I’ve got two weeks cleared in my diary – one is for the editing of a book I’ve been working on. Another week is cleared for when I co-edit an anthology of poetry.

But none of this would be possible without the single most useful tool at my disposal: persistence.

I shared a quote with some of my students at the end of last term. It’s a quote that’s been attributed to Calvin Coolidge, although I can’t find an accurate or trustworthy source for definitive citation. Nevertheless, as with so many quotes, it’s worth repeating whether the attribution is right or not:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

And I believe that’s why I’m now managing multiple projects where I previously only managed single ones. I don’t believe I’m the best writer out there. I’m far from being the most prolific or the most successful. But I keep sitting down in front of my PC at the scheduled times, I keep doing what my diary tells me is needed, and I’m persistent enough to keep doing that for as long as writing remains enjoyable.

Ashley Lister
August 2011

“The Write Stuff” © 2011 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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