I’ve spent the past several days (and have several more to come) gear-shifting between three radically different writing projects. On the one hand, I’m taking this approach because I know my brain can’t just buckle down and slam all the way through one of them in a concentrated go; eventually it starts emitting steam and high-pitched whistles, and then I have to stop or switch to something else. On the other hand, that means I’m putting a different sort of strain on it, by asking it to get into a totally different mode on very short notice.
Thank god for the tactics I developed years ago.
It started out as a way to get myself into the headspace of a novel on days when I didn’t want to write. Well, no, that’s a lie; it started out as an accident: me being obsessed with a ten-minute trance remix of a particular song and listening to it on loop while I happened to be writing what eventually turned into Lies and Prophecy. But it became that thing I just said, and so I got in the habit of associating particular music with particular books. These days it’s more often whole playlists rather than single songs; the former is slightly less insanity-inducing than the latter, but also (if we’re being honest) a bit less effective.
This helps SO MUCH when I have to do this kind of gear-shifting. Even though two of the projects are new enough and small enough that they don’t actually have associated music, I picked out an album in one case, a genre playlist in the other, and when I’m done with A and it’s time for B, I change the music. And it helps. My brain goes, “Oh, techno? I absolutely cannot think about Previous Project with that going on. What else is on offer?” And then I open up the file for Next Project and we’re off.
I’m not claiming it’s foolproof. Also, not everyone can write to music (it’s worth noting that the vast majority of what I listen to is either instrumental or in languages I don’t speak well enough to be distracted by), so it’s not a tactic that can work for everybody. Possibly you could sub in things other than music, like beverages or sitting in different parts of the house, though I think those would be weaker insofar as they’re less likely to evoke particular genres, settings, and moods. But if you can do this: hoo boy does it help.