As a mother of a toddler, this skill comes in incredibly helpful throughout the day. Maybe my son is watching VeggieTales, but needs a drink refill. I’m writing at the table and I have to jump up to help him, but my mind is back on my WIP. To be honest, a lot of times I don’t even bother sitting down anymore, but stand up at the kitchen counter to write at my laptop–it makes things a lot easier.
But the multitasking I want to talk about today is a different type of multitasking. I’m talking about the kind of multitasking many authors do: working on multiple projects at once.
As I’m now a freelance editor, I’ve taken on a novel to edit, I just finished writing a second draft of my novella Footprints in the Dust, and I’m in the middle of a read-through on draft 2.5 of Spurn the Moon. Meanwhile, I’m attempting to keep my blog going with engaging articles and subjects, as well as keep up my Instagram account, Twitter account, and post on Facebook (once in awhile I actually make it to all three in one day) and that doesn’t even touch my personal life.
I gotta say, writers these days lead busy lives.
But writers have to write to be writers, and I try to pounds out a few hundred words a day, whether it’s through non-fiction or fiction or even just commentary on what I’m reading (book reviews anyone?).
Whew. I feel like I just ran a marathon. Anyone else’s days this busy? Anyone else feel as though all their writing commitments are overwhelming? (And I don’t even freelance write!)
So why bother to keep myself so busy? Why bother to try? And how do you work on multiple projects at once?
1. Organization is key.
I like to be organized. I have a million notebooks, all half full, all for different subjects. While I have a lot of scattered ideas, I record them in an organized fashion so that I can find what I’m looking for at a later date.
Likewise, when I realized something needs to be done, I keep an Evernote file for changes to make in a WIP or tasks to complete.
Scrivener allows me to stay organized within projects by grouping all my blogging articles in one easily maneuverable file, and allowing me to flip between scenes easily in my novels and shorter stories.
In one way or another, there needs to be some sort of higher level of organization to achieve maximum output. I have to have a way to keep all these different projects organized, and I use many tools to do it.
What is the most important thing that you need to accomplish today? Do you even know off the top of your head? Or did you just now make a list and prioritize it?
Try to get into the habit of prioritizing your list on a daily basis, and give yourself deadlines.
Right now, a client’s novel to edit is my highest priority. Secondly comes my scheduled blog posts. Thirdly, comes writing my WIPs. Now, on a daily basis, this may change. If I have a lot of time before a client’s work is due and I’m ahead on my blog posts for awhile, I may put my own writing as number 1.
Then get that most important thing of the day done first–even if that means you spend most of your day on it.
I always feel more relaxed if I have the hardest stuff done first. However, if I reach a stopping point, or a point where I am “finished” with it for the day and know that I have another deadline looming, I’ll switch gears and start on priority number 2, leaving number 1 unfinished for the moment. That allows me to rest from the monotony of the first job and still get work done on the second.
3. Take frequent breaks.
We all work best when we get little breaks throughout the day. Since I’m a mother of a toddler, breaks often come when I don’t want them to come. But when I’m working during nap time, I will give myself a bit of a break too so that I don’t end up straying to Facebook and losing track of time.
So get up, stretch your legs. Walk upstairs and get a glass of water. Get a coffee refill. And if you have really good self-control, read one article on CNN–just one. Take five minutes to yourself and then get back to work.
4. Remind yourself why you want this.
Why do you want this life? Is this the life you want? If someone asked me if I wanted to be an author I would unhesitatingly say yes. I feel called to write. Without writing in my life, something is missing. So despite a busy day (without writing), I slip writing into my life in order to feel complete.
When I have many projects on the burners at once, I rotate through them. Sometimes this has no rhyme or reason, but other times I assign them priorities. When am I planning on publishing a work? Is it related to another work that must be finished first? As much as possible, unless the Muse is really tugging at me for a particular project, I work on whatever is due first.
So while I’m working on these projects, prioritizing and cataloguing them, I’m reminding myself of why I want this: to be a career author. I don’t want to just publish one work and be done, no I want this to be my career because I can’t imagine life without writing. That’s the life I want, and that’s my daily mantra. Write because you want to be an author.
5. When you can’t write, read.
There will be days when you don’t get time to sit down at the computer and write. That’s okay. You may have multiple projects in the works, but you can’t get to your computer to write any of them. It sucks. I know. I’ve been there. But you can always do something to better your WIP. Take reading, for example.
Maybe you’re thinking that reading can’t help you be a better writer, but you couldn’t be wronger. That’s right. Wronger. I bet you all caught that. Why? Probably because you read a lot.
But not only does reading expand your vocabulary, it also displays the craft of writing before your very eyes. Even if it’s a bad book–especially if it’s a bad book.
Every story you read is full of the craft of writing. Story structure: hooks, inciting events, turning points, midpoints, climaxes, resolutions; dialogue: bad, good, authentic, unique; syntax: how did that author put her sentences together?, why did it stand out to you?–even if you don’t recognize these things as you read them, your subconscious is recognizing what makes a good story and filing away that information for when you get back to your writing.
Trust me. Give it a try.
6. Utilize your time wisely.
I did a lot of reading during my “writing-less” days as a sleep-deprived new mother. In fact, I’ve probably read a lot more and written a lot more since my son was born. Why? Because with limited “free” time, I constantly feel that pressure to utilize my time wisely.
Just today during nap time, I was multitasking, and I was thinking that I ought not to be. While it was my relaxation time, it was also my work time. But somehow I managed to do both. I split my attention between projects and made headway in what I needed to do, while taking time to myself and relaxing.
While at some point I did have to get serious and knock off the multitasking, I still accomplished something during those multitasking moments. The key is to make the most of the time you have. Sometimes as writers we must multitask if we want to do anything at all, and those are the moments that could be counted wasted if you aren’t willing to multitask.
Utilize every minute of your day to its highest ability. You’ll find that you can write great things in five minutes in the car before you head into that business meeting or at your desk during lunch in a quiet office.
How do you multitask as a writer? Do you work on several projects at once? Do you have to have absolute quiet to write? Or are you a single minded individual?