Multiple Projects or Single Focus?
When you work a day job, have a family, and you’re trying to break into the creative industry of your choice, the thought of working on multiple projects can sound overwhelming. I know. I’m in your shoes if that’s what you’re feeling. There are those that believe it’s best to focus on a single project until it’s completed while others will argue it’s in your best interest to juggle several. I tend to lean more toward the latter but with a caveat: work on one project with several on ready to be rotated in.
By that I mean dedicating most of your creative time and energy to a single project does often help with momentum in its completion but I would discourage you from ignoring any other ideas that come to mind. And especially not any that your heart wants to run away with. Keep a notebook with you, take advantage of the notes app on your phone, or the cloud of your choice; be that Google Drive or Dropbox, etc. Have a running list of ideas that you want to explore. We’ll talk more about where to find those ideas in a future post.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that you focus solely on one screenplay. You put all of your time, energy, and creativity into one singular film idea - and it happens to get picked up by the studio you want to work with who can get you the director you’d love to see bring it to life with your dream cast, production has started, the whole nine. There will still be the question of “What else are you working on?” Oh, crap. In all likelihood, they don’t expect you to hand over a perfect feature film script right that moment but the number of completed scripts required by many to even entertain a new writer is at least three.
Back to that caveat. I started working on the novel version of The Abandoned Isle under the title Biba Guahan when I was eighteen. We are talking about over a decade ago. Back then, I didn’t have any career aspirations as a professional writer and was attending university to become an elementary school teacher. It wasn’t a future I thought was possible for me. Yet, I couldn’t let the idea of that story go. So despite the extensive amount of research that would be required to make it something substantial, I kept hold of my notebooks and resisted the urge to hit delete on the computer files for it. In the meantime, other ideas came around including what would be my first ever completed feature film script, Suspension. After learning the basics of screenwriting through the experience of writing that romantic comedy, I returned to the idea of The Abandoned Isle and have had success in screenwriting competitions with the pilot script. While I wait for the results of other contests with that same script, I sent out for notes on Suspension and started working on another feature film.
The creative process is a lengthy process and it is easy to get to get bogged down with a single project even when you love what it is that you’re working on. Sometimes fatigue from multiple edits occurs or you simply aren’t experiencing flow at a given time. You may find that it’s beneficial to the project you were working on to take a break and return to it with fresh eyes. Amateur writers do have the luxury of doing this without the same consequences and constraints of deadlines that professionals do. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop working. Consistency is the goal of working on multiple projects - keeping those creative juices flowing - not perfection. And that consistency will serve you well when you do make the transition to being a paid professional with those three scripts prepared for your agent.
What do you find works best for you? Do you work on more than one creative idea at a time? How do you juggle them? Let me know in the comments below!