Making time for creative work is a luxury; finding the time to get it done is where most of us land. Between regular jobs, paid gigs, freelance assignments, caregiving and supporting family, friends, while staying active - physically and politically! - and ensuring we still sleep and eat, most (all?) of us are constantly juggling the creative/work/life balance. It’s always going to be a balancing act though, you know? No matter what, something will come up. So to get anything done, we have to prioritize.
Writing - like all creative work - requires deep focus to engage in a project from start to finish and successfully produce or publish it. We all make sacrifices of time and opportunity to get there. With so much *personally* at stake, it can sometimes feel paralyzing to try and prioritize our projects.
How do we know which project to focus on creatively at any given time?
I’m all about the why now and how approach to prioritizing what we pitch, draft, and refine. Next week, we’ll unpack Finding the Time (Pt 2), and get into my time management tips and work/life balance tricks to getting it done while still having fun.
Pitching: Keep Those Irons in the Fire
Why Now? You never know what’s going to get hot – so much of this business is about luck and timing. Being in the right place when the right opportunity becomes available, and being prepared enough to seize upon it. When you pitch regularly – your ideas, yourself as a collaborator – you keep enough opportunity out there for a steady flow of work.
How? Not everything has to be ready to show when you first pitch it. A fully baked idea, strong pitch materials that demonstrate a clear vision and POV, accompanied by a relevant writing sample can be enough to get a project off the ground. Think about your pitchable projects as opportunities for key players to join your team and make the project better or make it happen. Remember, you’re likely going to be pitching at all stages of the development process, and potentially even throughout pre-prod, production, and post.
Drafting: Which Project Do I Write?
Why Now? Time to get real honest on your cost-benefit analysis. Passing along the best advice from my managers and producing partners. They’ve all said this to me in different ways, but at the end of the day, it’s about how you are getting paid. You’re going to put the time in no matter what, so what are you getting out of it? And is it fulfilling? The thing is, not all opportunities pay (up front, well, at all) and so you may also have to explore the potential that this project you’re investing your time in now gets you something else that you may need down the road: credit, recognition, mentorship, collaboration, an education, a promotion, a travel adventure.
How? Realistically assess if you have the bandwidth to take on the challenge of what it will take to complete this project right now. A lot of folks talk about the need to develop a writing routine: morning pages, or hitting a certain page count or word count per day. That’s honestly never worked for me because my schedule is always in flux. I do write *something* every day, but my deep-focus drafting writing windows change frequently, and it’s hard to find a routine that I can commit to keeping consistent. What I can do is make a quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily writing schedule that is project-based and designed for completion.
I found it so liberating when I read that many famous writers throughout history (I think Hemingway was one) scheduled limited writing days to maximize their effectiveness, while enjoying and fulfilling other desires and obligations throughout the day. I write in 3-6 hour shifts, and can’t always make that happen every day, and I tell myself: that’s okay. Do what’s do-able. I cherish my collaborators and creative partners that feel this same way. We carry each other across the finish line.
Refining: Knowing When It’s Ready To Show
Why Now? Writing is rewriting and our projects are never really done. But to continue to grow and gain opportunities as a writer and creative, at some point– we need to greenlight and go. You know it’s time to refine when we need to pursue an opportunity we weren’t quite prepared to seize. Or, when you don’t have the bandwidth to draft something new, refine or restart something that’s inspiring you, or could be connected to an opportunity you want to pursue.
How? So how do you know when it’s ready for the world? I hit send when I feel confident that my vision’s on the page and I’ve executed a trusted set of notes– from my manager, producing partners, fellow writers, friends, collaborators– that gives me the confidence that my intent is landing with an audience. However, it’s too easy to revise indefinitely and doing so can take valuable time from pitching and drafting something new. Developing a metric or deadline for yourself to hit send and move on (for now) is key.
Ultimately, the thinking that if we could only… then we will magically make more time in our day… is just that: magical thinking. Even when we get paid full-time to work on projects in the role we want, or on our own original ideas – I’ve found that there’s always something else on the horizon that we can looking forward to making - building - doing.
To bring your creative visions into prioritized focus with everything else you’re juggling at work and in your life, find a few minutes to dream about what’s possible, schedule a few hours to make it probable, and then just take it moment to moment. Being fully present in those moments is one of the greatest creative gifts we can give ourselves. More on this next week!