Juggling interests effectively

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a project junkie. I’ll find a new interest, dive into it fully for several weeks, then lose the taste and forget about it for ages. And my pre-existing, established interests sit in a wheel that circles round, waxing and waning in importance and interests. I pictured this when I was teenager like a little roulette wheel. Where was my attention going to bounce to next? Writing a novel? Making an RPG maker game? Making an UTAUloid? Vlogging? Learning Icelandic?

This would leave me with a frustrating sense of never accomplishing anything. I’m much more stable now, and I think a large part of that is due to having a writing habit at the centre. Every day, first thing in the morning if possible, I either write for this blog, work on my podcast, do writing for my classes, or work on my novel (which, at the time of writing, has sadly fallen by the wayside…).

Having this writing habit as a core works great, because it feeds into all my other interests. It’s my creative skill I’m most attuned to, and it’s flexible enough to be used for many purposes, even teaching. I’ve cut down on interests that don’t contain a strong writing element (e.g. UTAU), because as much as I enjoy them, I don’t have all the time in the world and I want to build complementary skills. That’s my ambitious side coming out again.

So if you’re facing a similar struggle, maybe stuck in a dead-end job and looking for some creative escape, I recommend introspection. Actually, it’s the solution for most problems, but that’s another post. Dig deep down inside of you. Think of all the projects, hobbies, interests you’ve dabbled in. Which came the easiest? Which was the most enjoyable? Which was the most challenging? Which could be combined or run in parallel?

Once you’ve narrowed down your core interests, you can further apply this method. Every time you fold a piece of paper it gets stronger.

I did this recently with my fiction writing. I was struggling to choose a genre for my novel, which was hovering in the dangerous “it’s a cross-genre unicorn” zone. I made a spreadsheet of all my favourite shows, films, games, and books, and defined the internal and external genres according to the Story Grid methodology. Then I did the same for all writing projects I’d completed or semi-completed, including a column for how much I enjoyed working on it. You can see the spreadsheet here.

It drew up some really interesting conclusions. For one, while I usually don’t consider myself an action fan, a lot of the plots were action. In particular, Action Fate (time travel) plots came up a lot. But the most surprising finding was that by far, my favourite genre when reading/watching was Society Woman. Essentially, “feminist works”.

This completely changed the way I viewed my own writing, and helped me make a breakthrough in planning the fourth draft of my novel that shifted the tone and content dramatically, but ultimately made it a far more cohesive whole. I still have to write the draft, but that’s besides the point!!

Let me know if you also suffer from the “rolodex of interests”, and what methods you’ve used to conquer it.

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