I almost never read one book at a time.
There’s a stack on my nightstand which currently includes the second book in N.K Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, The Obelisk Gate, and Maziar Bahari’s memoir of his time spent in prison in Iran, Rosewater. There’s also a sizeable pile of four or five SF anthologies on my dresser that I’m mining for (K)indred Experiment material.
Sometimes I pick a book to read based on how I’m feeling at the moment. Rosewater is heavy and serious, and is taking me awhile to get through for that reason. It’s not typically something I want to read at night to wind down and relax. Other times I choose a book for purely practical reasons. Do I want to schlep the 1000 page anthology to work to read at lunch time? No. I’ll bring something lighter.
What I’ve realized recently is that this method of reading, which has always worked for me, also works as a method for writing. When I was in grad school, deadlines were an adequate motivation. Words had to be written, so I’d sit down and write them. Without anyone to answer to, I struggled to find a routine that I could settle into and get things done.
If I’m honest, I’m still struggling to find a routine. More hours in the day would be excellent, but since I haven’t figured out how to manipulate time yet, I’ll have to work with what I’ve got. What I’ve found is that if I work on several things at once, more writing actually happens.
I’ve recognized my periods of mania for some time, (where I want to do all of the things! Right now!) but I’m just starting to figure out how to use them to my advantage. Now, my work space often looks like this:
Multiple projects going at once means if I’m stuck with novel characters wandering aimlessly around post-apocalypse Paris (as they so frequently do), then I can work on (K)indred lesson plans or a short story. And if I’m completely at a loss for words, there’s usually a simple knitting project I can pick up for a few rows to refocus and get back to work.
It’s not a perfect process, by any means. For now, it’s a process that is working for me, and I’ve accomplished more in the last few weeks of working with my brain than I did in all the hours spent trying to finish one thing at a time.