Multi-Project Creativity

How to fall in love with how you make

Hands kneading bread on a floured table with a bowl
Photo by Anton on Unsplash

Writing Everything

I’m a novelist. I’m also an essayist, a poet, and I write children’s and YA books and stories. I recently finished a memoir. It’s a lot of variety! I love it all.

But how can I commit myself and sell my work?

I’ve thought hard about how to market myself, and a lot of articles will tell you to concentrate on one market for your material. It makes sense; you can brand yourself with loyal readers, perfect your form, and read extensively to study up on that type of writing.

How to Keep the Ideas Flowing

I like to turn on my computer and write in my diary, or on my blog, and ruminate on what’s going on in my life, what I want to bring to my writing that day, or what my mood looks like.

I look at my setting: what time of day is it? Where am I, at my friend’s house, visiting my children in Texas, or home in my apartment in Colorado? What theme seems to pop out from my day?

After I do this rumination, I often feel a direction come to me. I have a germ of an idea for a poem, or a line of poetry.

I feel playful and want to continue my exploration of magical realism in a book I’m writing that involves talking cats. I outline novel ideas. Or I’m serious, and I want to talk politics, immigration, racism, ableism or LGBTQ issues.

All too often, I am on Twitter tweeting up a storm of ideas, in conversation with other writers. I alternate and combine ideas. I come up with new ones. I’m anything but focused, but usually with effort I can discipline myself to one project on one day.

Falling in Love with Writing

Is this the “right” way to work? Maybe not. I have an inner critic who tells me that I should buckle down and power through on one project, see it to its finish, sell it and then, only then, indulge myself and work on something else.

Plenty of successful writers and artists work this way, says this voice inside me, and they manage to finish projects. They sell and they focus, and they sell again.

But then another voice tells me that this is the way I have found, the way I like to work, in play and in fun. I am a dilettante, and I love what I do.

I am no longer in grad school, where I had to truly work on one thing at a time, finishing 25-page papers with a deadline, where I worked in fear and often without joy.

Sometimes I found myself interested in the work on an abstract level, loving the turn of a phrase or the explanation of an idea, but more often I was tortured, miserable, in despair over ever finishing my manuscript in time, or ever graduating. It certainly is not the manner of work I liked.

Let them Frolic!

I say, let ‘er rip! Let the ideas lead you down rabbit holes and around obstacles, let them expand and contract, let them encompass the grandeur and magnificence of this world, and let them describe minutia and repetitive droning as well as one glorious moment.

Let your art and your words describe sights and smells, crowds and high loneliness, color and change, and let them stand still and wonder. If that means writing in ten thousand genres, let it be so!

Allow the projects to have their way. At the same time, allow yourself to work hard, and work often. Believe in the work you do and believe that your work will have its proper home.

Believe! And keep creating. I believe in you!



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Jackie Olsen

Jackie Olsen

Come for the insights on aging, leave with a doggie bag full of frogs and exoplanets. Now more poems about vacuuming! she/her/hers