Spinning Plates

20 Mar

You’d think the biggest writing problem I’d have as a stay-at-home dad and full time writer is “THE KIDS” and you’d add “OH MY GOD THE KIDS HOW DO YOU STAY SANE WITH ALL THIS NOISE OH MY GOD”

To which I would smile a little and then look up the word “sane” which sounds delicious.


The biggest problem I have is actually that I write three different things more or less all the time. I regularly write articles, primarily for BookRiot, an activity which I have taken unabated pleasure in since I began. I adore writing articles on a range of subjects (well, books.)

I also write short stories pretty much constantly, either for magazines and anthologies or for little collections I’m putting together myself, for fun. I always have a short story on the go. Sometimes two.

And I write novels. These begin with less frequency but go on for a long time as a project. The biggest problem here is that I am not a natural novel-writer. I’m like a walker who is in shape, but is now trying to adjust muscles and breathing to the act of distance running. I love it, but it’s hard.

And the hardest bit of all is balancing all three.

Not the writing itself, but the mental space is my problem. Case in point is that  spent a week or so struggling to get the novel stitched up and off the ground and moving. Bu then I came back to write some articles and realized I had NO IDEAS. i had NOTHING to talk about. Had it finally happened, like I was always worried it would? Had I just abruptly run out of things to talk about?

I doubt it. No, what I think happened is that my mental gears switched to NOVEL, and because I was so focused there, the ARTICLES plate slowed and slowed and stopped spinning (and fell off, this time). I didn’t think of article ideas because I wasn’t perpetually applying motion to the ARTICLES plate. Does that make sense?

So I lamented my problem on twitter, like I do, and discovered EVERYONE ELSE has this problem too.


So what’s the solution? I don’t really know, but I have ideas.

– Structure: building a structured working schedule for the different forms might be the key. Supposing I KNOW that Monday through Wednesday is NOVEL, Thursday through Saturday is ARTICLES? Or some schedule like that? 

– Notes: I have a hunch that carrying a little notebook with me all the time and writing down novel notes, article notes, story notes, bits of dialog, observations, pieces of articles, might be helpful in maintaining a fluidity in the working process, so it isn’t like I have to stop spinning each plate when the others are going. If I’m writing a novel but making not only novel notes but article notes, might that not keep the matter fresh in my mind, so that when I sit to article (can I use that as a verb?) they’re fresher? Some past days, I wrote two or three articles a day. That’s lovely, but unsustainable (and not always fun, to be honest). 

Other solutions? None yet. I’m really pondering this. It has to be a solvable problem, but I haven’t solved it yet. Probably I won’t ever fully solve it. I’ll get the plates going but then I’ll sneeze or something (whatever the hell that means in this metaphor) and they’ll come crashing to the floor. Here’s hoping not, though. Sheesh, I am optimistic at night, aren’t I?

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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