Last summer we rented a pedal boat at a lake in a small state park here in Vermont. Those are great if you want to take a calm but squeaky (I wouldn’t use one if I was trying to anonymously escape from an island-locked prison — wait, what am I doing in prison in the first place?) jaunt on a bright, sunny day. Get caught in a thunderstorm, though, and the fun melts away. Have you ever tried to outrun the lightning by pedaling one of those things faster? Never before was truer the phrase “the ‘hurrier’ I go, the ‘behinder’ I get.” It seems as though faster pedaling makes you go backwards. More effort makes for less (possibly even negative) progress.
My search for a career in writing has become that pedal boat. The lightning storm of rare and diminishing prospects (coupled with the fact that I may or may not be approaching 50 in a year and a half) has caused me to pedal faster, as I’ve started to take on too many projects. Now that my efforts have me sufficiently overwhelmed, I’m making less (possibly even negative) progress.
I manage two active blogs on WordPress: this one (obviously) and Our Journey, Our Way (by “actively manage” I mean “realize they are there, and update them sporadically”). I’ve also been chipping away at (“chipping away at” = “thinking about an idea, and promising myself I will start it ‘tomorrow'”) an article for Cracked.com. Also, I was working on interviewing the promoter of a writing contest (after my first round of questions, he never got back with me; I think it may have ended up being an exposé) and I have a pretty solid stage play script in the works (treatment is done, and I’ve finished the script through Act I, Scene 6). On top of that, I’ve been submitting to some short story contests and literary magazines (21 submissions; 2 rejections to date), along with looking for freelance writing work (I’m a Craigslist junkie). Through it all, I have been continually pushing an idea for a novel (my longest-living project) onto the back burner.
I believe my slow progress is a direct result of trying too hard to outrun the storm. Instead of picking one or two projects to give slow and steady quality work, I’ve been trying to amass quantity. I know part of me thinks exposure is the key. All that’s doing, though, is making me pedal faster and getting me soaking wet. So, I’ve decided to slow down the effort and concentrate on getting to shore, instead of trying to outrun the storm.
Since it has been the longest running effort, I’m going to plug along at the novel, “What You Get.” Of course, that will call for updates here every once in a while, so I will have to keep up with Read All You Want. Then, since I can’t stop feeding my kids (it’s not like I haven’t tried), I’ll continue working freelance writing projects (got one? jonthestoryteller [at] ymail [dot] com — just saying). Other than that, the other things will have to hold off for a while. Some people can do more; I don’t have the legs for it.
How about you? Are you a speedboat that can successfully work multiple projects at once? Or are you in a pedal boat, kicking along one or two things at a time? Please leave a comment and share some secrets for your success.