Multitasking for Writers

We’re all so busy these days. Computers, cell phones, social networking and all the endless gadgets of “convenience” have contrived to make our lives busier than ever. So, how do two hard-working authors find the time to write? Multitasking, that wonderful, terrible word that popped into existence approximately when all the time-saving gadgets began to appear.

Can you remember an era when we all only did one task at a time before moving on to the next? No, we can’t either. In fact, the only time when we’re not multitasking is when we’re sleeping and even then, before we fall asleep, we lie in bed planning our next day, plotting a new chapter, squeezing every last ounce of productivity out of the day before we close our eyes.

How can we write while doing other things? Isn’t that sort of complicated? Difficult? Downright impossible? Well, it depends on what part of the writing process we happen to be engaged in. The actual sit-down-at-the-computer-and-type part requires total concentration. We simply can’t multitask while writing a new scene and if any authors can, we’d like to meet them and learn their secrets. In our house a sure way to endanger your life is to interrupt the person who is in the middle of writing a chapter.

However, there is more to writing than just writing. Plotting, character development, creating interesting new places and beings, and coming up with made-up words to describe things that don’t exist anywhere else but in our imaginations are some of things we group under the activity we call writing. And these things, thankfully, can be done while working on something else.

For instance, we recently painted our living room, which could have been a drag, but actually provided us with large chunks of time to work on the book and kept us from getting snippy about all the work we had to do. Brainstorming new plot ideas took the place of berating each other about how the room should have been repainted five years ago. Creating a few new characters distracted from the klutzy one who kept spilling the paint. Deciding when and how to reveal the secrets hinted at in Time’s Edge was a welcome change from the one who who kept whining about sore arms and hands. All in all, multitasking was a lifesaver.

And take this winter. We live in New England. The first snowstorm hit December 26th (see our blog How to Write a Book During a Blizzard) and it pretty much snowed every week for the rest of the season. This meant we spent any spare time we had shoveling snow into drifts that rapidly became taller than we were. Instead of allowing this to eat up our writing time, we multitasked and discussed the book while shoveling. We solved a lot of plot problems and built up our muscles at the same time. The only downside was the odd looks we got from the neighbors when they overheard us talking about what to call a six-legged, lizard-type creature that has long claws and venom in its fangs. They must think we have a new exotic pet because none of them have dropped by for a visit since.

Of course, we multitask out of necessity, not for a love of it. There are days when we yearn nostalgically for the slowness of times past. No cell phones, no Internet, not even an answering machine for the phone. Ah, to have peace and freedom from instant connections, statistics, and promotions. To be able to sit back and let the world go by and just write while the only multitasking to be done is to make the tea when the kettle whistles. Paradise.

About jmdattilo

J.M. Dattilo is our pen name. We are the authors of the Time's Edge sci-fi/fantasy series.

Posted on February 27, 2011, in Authors, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Ah yes, paradise! Before cell phones, internet, texting, facebook and call waiting, a world gone by!

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