I read in a book recently that an experiment was done that showed that unfinished projects take up more mental bandwidth than finished projects.
The scientists tested this by allowing their subjects to finish some puzzles but not others in a certain allotment of time. The subjects continued to think about the unfinished puzzles afterwards.
In some ways this mental attention to unfinished projects can be good. Look at it from a writer’s perspective. Writing a novel takes a long time. It is not completed in a single sitting. So the writer continues to think about the project in those hours when not actively working on the project but while still striving towards finishing it.
This is the subconscious work, the work done in the back of the mind, where after weeks of work, or days of struggle over a problem in the story, a new idea will emerge.
This background thinking can be incredibly valuable and useful.
But it can also break up the ability to think deeply and introduce the feeling over being overwhelmed.
Too many open-ended, unfinished projects can mean the mind is constantly jumping from one project to the next.
That’s where I am sitting now: a novel finished but not yet published, another drafted and being edited, a cover to be decided on and finalized, a direct mail project at work that can quite get to the stage of being mailed out, and a massive project to migrate to a new CRM system.
And I wonder why I flounder every morning unable to sketch out the plot for my next novel, why I can’t get more than a few chapters into any book before tossing it down, why I can only read short stories, and it is easier to play Xbox than to think.
The solution to my problem is easy: get some closure to some of the open projects and re-open the bandwidth.
But right now I am in the midst of it, so I’ll just need to muscle through and push towards getting at least one of the projects closed.