How do we know which project to focus on creatively at any given time?
Last week, we unpacked the why now and how approach to prioritizing what we pitch, draft, and refine. This week, I’ll share my time management tips and work/life balance tricks to getting it done while still having fun.
Pitching: Keep Those Irons in the Fire
Getting It Done | Keep an Idea Journal. Organize those fleeting what ifs. Ideas don’t have to be fully formed, but it can be helpful to categorize them by type, genre, and what it will take to execute them. Brainstorm a list of events, contests, fests, residencies you want to attend, fellowships and opportunities you hope to land, and meetings you’re eager to get on your calendar. Checking in with ourselves whenever - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whenever you get stuck - and writing down our raw ideas and goals *at the same time* can help us to see new ways to position ourselves for the right opportunity at the right time. Whether you make a habit of doing this for 10 minutes at a time, or binging every so often– do make the habit of organizing your ideas. You’ll be more ready to pitch whomever, on whatever, whenever the opportunity arises.
Having Fun | Turn Pitching Into Happy Hour. There’s a reason why the Hollywood exec and agent scene is dominated by coffees and breakfasts, power lunches, drinks, dinners, desserts… all work and no play can be really draining, so take a page from the pros and multi-task. It’s really easy to get discouraged, lose momentum, or focus when we’re brainstorming ideas in a vacuum. Even if you’re not taking your pitches out to parties, or if this extrovert’s approach to self-promotion kinda makes you want to throw up, by reaching out to your crew of friends and family, you can low-key beta test early ideas to see how sticky they are. Go to your collaborators to see if you can pitch someone to get excited about executing your idea with you and making something happen with it. Test out early concepts on a bigger audience on social media – be as anonymous as you need to be– and see what kind of traction you might get. We need to know our ideas can live somewhere besides our own heads. That’s the first part. The second part is – sometimes, to make time, we need to feel like it’s worthwhile. It’s important to nurture connections with your creative support team or fans who believe in you. Bonus if you can do something else you love while you’re at it: lose yourself in nature, go workout, grab a post-vax bite to eat.
Drafting: Which Project Do I Write?
Getting It Done | Write in Shifts. Throughout film school and in my early 20s, I thought I needed to clock 12-14 hour writing weekends or all nighters to get my writing done. As I transitioned to more freelance work for myself, I found that my writing schedule stayed the same: I never had time to hang out, have fun, do the things I wanted to do. I told myself it was “self-discipline” but the reality was – I began to resent my writing like it was more of a chore than my passion. I started investigating how other writers managed their time and realized it was far more common than I realized for pro writers to write in shifts. 5-6 hours a day. Today, I write in 3-6 hour daily shifts. I still love a good binge-writing weekend, but to keep my projects moving forward and balance everything else I got going on– I have to schedule my writing in shifts. Limiting my time helps me stay focused, and I also feel great about having time to do all the fun things I want to do with my friends and family.
Having Fun | Schedule Shifts to Minimize FOMO. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to limit my time. I have to meet a deadline, and the writing has to get done. I’ve hit my shift ceiling and it’s still unfinished. This is when I pull the all-nighter, or have to miss out on something. But I have legit FOMO, especially when it comes to be a present mom and spending time with my kids and husband or doing something super fun with friends. So to minimize that, I try and schedule my writing windows for times that I know they will be otherwise engaged. I try and ensure our meal times align and try to exercise during outdoor play, so that when we all come home and need to unwind, everyone can do their own thing quietly, while I finish writing in a shared space that is hopefully somewhat chaos-free.
Refining: Knowing When It’s Ready To Show
Getting It Done | Stick to a Deadline Schedule. Set a limited window to complete your revisions, and shift creative priorities (pitching, drafting) accordingly. Once you refine and hit send, be done with it for now, and move on to something new. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to working on and completing one project at a time. Many writers and creatives I know have a slate of projects in various stages of development and production so they can stay fresh and challenged thinking about storytelling in different ways. Shifting from draft mode to refining mode within a specific deadline window is a great way to balance your project slate and still get things done.
Having Fun | Celebrate! It is a big deal to finish a draft. First draft, revised draft. You put in the time, no doubt made sacrifices, battled some FOMO and got something ready to show. Celebrate! My introverted celebration is having a fun or fancy dinner and something delicious to drink. My extroverted celebration is inviting everyone I know to join me! Or doing a table reading. Live on stage. Virtually on Zoom. Gathering fam and friends to pull up a cushion in my living room. We can’t rely on others to validate our work, so we need to find ways to validate both the process and the product for ourselves.