Mavis's Shoe

Author of two novels and a creative memoir.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Planning for chaos

On my wall today there are thirteen sheets of paper with the names of the thirteen projects I am currently either considering or already working on. This is a blissful state to be in, at the end of one project and with the possibility of another twelve. But it’s a diabolical situation too. There is too much choice and if I examine the contents of my various notebooks I’ll find more projects to add. I know that what I need to do is explore these projects in turn to some depth, enough to be able to make informed decisions on each of them. But in the meantime deadlines for paid work loom. So I scribble my thoughts and ideas in mind-map style onto the sheets, muse on one of them for half an hour, scribble some more, then get back to the grindstone. They are undulating in the updraft from the radiator below as if they are jostling for my attention and shouting: Pick me!

But perhaps I have the wrong set of sheets. Maybe what I need are a new set of sheets about genres, styles of writing or readerships, or weighing up the possibilities of being wildly experimental or aiming for a bestseller, or finding an amalgam of all of these and more. Perhaps I should be examining the options of a return to visual art or music instead, or abandoning it all and returning to care work so I don’t have to sell my house to survive.

I need some dedicated time to explore all of this and what better place to do that than in a small campervan with spectacular views. Physical space is as valuable as time, as if living in a metaphorically grand landscape enables the enlargement of my ideas. This is what I long for. But sadly the weather is bl**dy freezing making day trips are the only possibility. So I am doing overdue domestic chores while mulling over these projects, returning every so often to the wall to scribble in a thought or phrase or feeling. I’m using ballpoint pens in a variety of pretty colours to make it more interesting. The music is a bit loud and it’s hard to write when you’re dancing. My head is over-full with random thoughts and ideas from which I’m hoping to knit something interesting.

So I have a question for all the writers who are reading this, or indeed anyone involved in creative ventures: How do you go about deciding which project to do next and to what extent, and how, do you plan?