The truth is, there are three things at the moment that are feeding into one another. It's created something of a fire storm in my head - I'm always thinking of one or other of these things and, fortunately for me, they're proving productive.
The first of these is the novel fourth draft I'm working on - 'Max'. It's amusing in some respects. When I wrote the first draft I remarked that, 'The least said about this one, the better! I didn't want to write it in the first place but I was...compelled.' Thinking about the second draft, I wrote, 'I know how I want the rewrite of this to pan out but the thought of writing it makes me feel queasy.' I finally got round to writing the second draft late last year, adding a second viewpoint and making the 'antagonist' a little more well-rounded. My goal, as I explained, was to delve into the characters: 'The first draft was an exercise in cleansing my mind; now I know more of the characters and I'm ready to create something a little better.' So the second draft twisted things a little and I ended up with a happy ending. The third draft earlier this year removed some secondary characters and replaced them with others who complemented the overall plot. And, once again, my antagonist got a bit nicer. In this fourth draft, she's not quite wearing a halo but it's not far off. I understand her. I understand why she makes some terrible decisions and why she comes across as completely selfish and the work I've done on my protagonist to explain why she reacts the way she does has helped. All in all, I think I'm really getting somewhere with this one.
My epic fan fic venture is another thing keeping me occupied. Now, I know people have varied opinions about fan fiction but I've always found it keeps my mind focused on writing and I can tell stories I want to for my own personal amusement. If it also helps me unwind then that's no bad thing. This story I'm telling at the moment, though, is one that I've needed to write for a decade and it's consuming me a little - I haven't done a complete word count lately but I suspect we're over the 400,000 word mark. So much for a hobby! However, I'm enjoying writing it and I'm enjoying reading back over it. For me, that's the most important thing.
The third thing that's feeding into my mental state at the moment is Once Upon a Time. I won't go into details but, for those of you who haven't watched the show, it's a retelling of certain fairytales that has a pretty important 'friendship' going on between two female characters. I'm drowning in fan fic and gifs - again, a hobby, but one that's aiding my productivity on the novel draft and the fan fic.
You see, there's a good reason these three things are coexisting in my life at the moment. All of them have family at their root. I learned during the second draft of 'Max' that it was the integral theme of the novel and that's only strengthened as time's gone by. In the fan fic, it's emerged as the defining theme and, well, Once Upon a Time is meant to be about family, even if it's not always clear that the writers know what they're doing. The novel draft, the fan fic and Once Upon a Time all have two parents (one not blood-related) and a complex familial relationship at the heart of them. And, perhaps, that's why everything's working so well at the moment.
There's no doubt in my mind that writing this fan fic and getting overly involved in Once Upon a Time is helping my novel draft. Call it a waste of valuable time if you want but I don't believe that - you can't write before you've learned the value and cost of a particular story or theme. Slowly, I'm figuring that out.