Working on several pieces at once helps me resist the urge to put too many eggs into each basket. Rather than using everything I know in each piece, I am able to clearly define what each piece should be about, in contrast to the others I’m working on. If one piece is primarily lyrical and another is more theatrical, I can turn my attention to the one that I feel best able to make progress on at the moment.
It also keeps me from working too quickly on any given piece. I like to compose a given passage, then set it aside to look at the next day, after I’ve had a chance to sleep on it, rather than pushing forward immediately. Sleeping on an idea or passage gives me a clarity and perspective I don’t have in the initial stage. If I work on passages from different pieces on any given day, I have several things to come back to the next day.
Generally speaking, I have three compositions going at once: a piece in its initial stages, one that I am well into, and one that is getting its final refinements. At least, that’s the way I’d like to have it under ideal circumstances. Naturally, the real world imposes all kinds of unforeseens that push and pull on the creative process for one piece or another. But when I hit that balance of three pieces at three distinct stages of completion – well, that’s when my work proceeds most smoothly, and – more importantly – that’s when I get the best results.