Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Multitasking Writer

I recently finished the second draft of my WIP and sent it off to readers. It was an awesome feeling knowing I had accomplished this. But it also put me in writing limbo. I was between drafts, stuck in a state of waiting. And because of my limbo, I slid into a writing lull as well. At first, I just breathe a sigh of relief that I finished. But then restlessness sets in: what should I work on next? should I start something new or wait until this WIP is completely done? Naturally, I fall for the Shiny New Idea in my head and begin brainstorming. I used to worry that focusing on a new idea would make me stop caring forget about my WIP. Shiny New Idea is 10X better than what I just wrote, I would tell myself. But 2012 is the Year of Finishing Stuff. And that means multitasking with my writing.

It seems a little difficult, juggling multiple projects. Different characters, different tones, different settings. But multitasking is what professional writers do. They're editing one book, promoting another, and drafting a third. When you're working with limited writing time or tight deadlines, the only way to get stuff done is to multitask. In 1992, Steven Spielberg was in post-production on Jurassic Park while he was filming Schindler's List. Nazis during the day; dinosaurs at night. Two movies that couldn't be any more dissimilar. But he multitasked and got it done. He did the same thing years later with War of the Worlds and Munich. In 1999, Robert Zemeckis was filming Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. He filmed all the before/after island scenes first, then took a long hiatus to allow Hanks to emaciate himself. Instead of spending that downtime lounging on his couch watching reruns of Wings, he filmed an entirely separate movie: supernatural thriller What Lies Beneath with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Many TV actors also make good use of their summer hiatuses by squeezing in movie roles. Only a pro like Melissa McCarthy could go from Mike & Molly to Bridesmaids.

TV writers staffed on multiple series have to juggle different characters and plotlines. Chuck Lorre produces both Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. While tonally both shows are the same (laugh track comedies), the characters and comedic rhythms are not. Ryan Murphy wrote American Horror Story and Glee concurrently -- two shows nobody would ever group together.

It's ok to succumb to the Shiny New Idea. We're human. We crave new things. A Shiny New Idea can energize us, inspire us to jump back into writing. But it shouldn't take up all of our brainpower. We have to learn to juggle projects new and old. It's all about multitasking. On the bright side, if you can manage this, then you'll never be bored.


  1. This post came to me at the right time. I am embarking on more than one project and wondering whether I will be able to do it, so thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Sounds good to me. I take things a bit slower than any of the names you mentioned...okay a lot slower. But nevertheless, I work by day and sometimes write by night. That's two totally different things, right? And sometimes I squeeze in time for Diablo 3!

    1. You're no slacker. Anyone who can work full-time and still find time to write and publish a book is a supreme multitasker and just plain awesome!

  3. It's tough though, let me tell ya. I'm working on promoting book one before it's released while also writing the outline for my second novel, a sequel. The promo part is so time consuming and all I really want to do is write.

  4. I am always succumbing To Shiny New Ideas!

    Saw your xmas in July entry and thought it was great, so have come over here to follow you.