How do you balance the needs of short and long-form writing? Over the past couple of months this has become an increasing issue for me, and I’m wondering how others may do it.
When I first started writing all of my focus was on short articles. I wanted to write articles and columns and spent each week writing two or three different posts, and pitching them to different outlets. Being a ‘columnist’ was my aim, and I did okay at it as well.
Over the past year or so however I have become more focused on long-term projects, my novel and my book Sexy Capitalism. I think I always considered these sorts of projects would one day become a focus, but in the early stages they were just something that were going to happen in the future. I didn’t see myself ready for them.
Naively, I now know, I also never saw the impact such projects would have on my capacity for other work. I saw them as an add-on — a natural development from what I was already doing. I suspect this was because I had a naive view that saw that one day freelance gigs would end up just coming naturally, and that I would not have to spend as much time pitching and searching for work.
A few years in now and I’ve realised how stupid that was. As I’ve worked on my books the amount of work my freelance writing has needed has not decreased, in fact it has just stayed the same. And writing books takes a lot of work! So in the meantime, I’ve noticed a significant drop in my freelance output — I’m writing fewer articles and blog posts, and making fewer pitches. When I am writing articles I find myself thinking I should be working on my book, and vice versa.
This has particularly hit me this year as I have also had to do more work finding paid jobs. I have been doing some tutoring and research assistant work, which both take up significant hours. In the end I’m finding balancing freelance writing, book writing, and paid work a difficult juggle.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about different ways to deal with this issue.
One solution is simply to work a lot more, but in reality that is neither what I want to do, nor a sustainable outcome. I work enough as it is and I enjoy my free time. I don’t want to give it up.
So I end up asking myself how to deal with competing projects and priorities? Recently what I have done is to regularly (every month or so) sit down and write a simple list of priorities. This list is in order, putting my major goals up the top, and secondary goals further down. It’s interesting to watch what stays the same and changes over time, and recently I’ve found that my top goals always end up being my books. This is a great way to define my priorities, but also helps me get over the anxiety when I am not being published as often as I want. If I can reflect on priorities in a clear way I can see a way forward that works for me, and make sure I stick to it.
The other strategy at the moment is to spend more time building a stronger financial base. I have discovered how exhausting the constant search for freelance writing paid work is — both in terms of the small return for work done, and in regards to the intellectual energy it takes to be constantly writing material. This energy is then taken away from my books. So I am working on finding a stronger base. This will end up likely resulting in me searching for more government and business work, which can be more sustainable. I need to accept the time it will take to build this base, understanding how it will help me spend more time on my preferred projects in the future.
Finally, and this is just a quick thought, I’m also realising how the focus on big stuff is making my small stuff better. The good thing about the big writing projects is that they take a lot of research. So I’m spending a lot of time reading and researching, which I didn’t do as much of before. When I am pitching things therefore it feels as though it has a stronger base. My pitches are revolving more and more around my big projects, and in turn they are gaining depth with every bit of research I’m doing. So whilst my output may be less, I think the quality has increased. This is a nice thought to have and one that can get me over the anxiety.
So how do you do it? How do you balance all of the ideas and projects you want to do? I’d love to hear your tips as it may help me with the conundrum I’m facing.