When you’re working on an important (but long-term) project, you can get a little stir crazy when you’re feeling shackled to the never-ending assignment. Internally you know that when you complete the project everything will have been worthwhile, but the trip to the end just seems to go on and on and on and on…
There is a quote by an American writer named Donald Barthelme that holds the key to the solution…
Novels take me a long time; short fiction provides a kind of immediate gratification.
Those long term projects are novels and you need to mix in a few short stories in order to achieve “complete gratification” — that awesome feeling you get when you actual finish a project and get to take a victory lap and cross it off your task list.
Be wary of writing too many novels at one time.
Hacking your way through one novel with your only break coming when you set it aside to work on another novel is tough work. It can make you feel like you’re running up the down-escalator… -you’re burning a lot of energy, you’re getting exhausted, but it doesn’t feel like you’re gaining much ground.
Recognize the value of the short story as a means of recharging your productivity batteries and maintaining a positive attitude through the act of actually completing projects.
A standard novel is typically over 40,000 words and more commonly runs somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 words. In contrast, the average word count of a short story is only 5,000 to 10,000 words.
This means you could write 10 short stories in the amount of time it would take to complete writing a single novel.
Take a look at your master list of projects.
How many of the projects on your list (especially the priority projects) would you consider “novel length” projects — assignments that will take a long time (weeks or months) to complete?
Now go down the list and look for “short story length” projects. There are probably a few of them at the bottom of your priority list because you didn’t consider them as urgent as the larger, long-term projects (even though many of them may actually be more important in the long run).
Intersperse some of the short story projects among the novel projects.
This way you will get some ongoing completion celebrations of short-term projects mixed in with the long-term hard work you’re doing on the bigger projects.
Review the novel length projects you noted.
Are there any novels that could be converted into collections of short stories?
If you can break a long term project down into a series of quicker short term projects you’ll have the benefit of more frequent project completions, along with accelerating the development of the long term project because you broke it down into more manageable and more achievable project phases.
Give this method a try and you’ll be living happily ever after before you know it!