Push-Pull Between Old and New Writing Projects

push pull of writing and book marketing puppy-837998_960_720The last few months have been particularly productive for me. I finished one book in November after five months of steady writing. As I always do, I sent it out to beta-readers and otherwise put it aside for a cooling-off period. I did not re-read it or think about it, but gave myself permission to catch up on other things until I heard back from my beta-readers. Suddenly in December, however, I got an idea for a new book, and before I knew it I was pounding away at that. The new book wasn’t anything I’d planned; it just hit me like a tidal wave until I agreed to get the flow down on paper.

Then the feedback for the other book started coming in and I needed to make edits. Then I remembered I had a book signing already set for the near future, and I promised I’d have the latest book ready for that. Suddenly I was being pulled off the WIP in order to finish up the last book, and it was a real struggle. I had to get the last book finished and published so I could order books for the signing. But I really wanted to just submerge myself in the new WIP. Waugh!

Of course for us indies, this is the constant dilemma. We do it all, therefore we have to switch hats whenever the need arises. No such luck as to lock ourselves in our writing cave and just write, write, write. No luck handing off the manuscript to someone else to proof, edit, format and upload. Very often during my day, I will notice that I have about ten or twelve tabs open on my browser, as well as five or more live icons on my taskbar that I switch between constantly. I might have three or four Word docs open, one being my WIP; one for my last book, converting it for KDP; one that’s my press kit for the last book, being updated once I get the live sales links; and one for the back material of all books, updating that with the latest as well. I might have one or two incomplete blog posts that I swoop down on periodically, as well. Meanwhile I’m jotting notes to myself to update my web page, update my author central page at Amazon, order books, and create bookmarks.

Other than that, though, I got nothing.

I really don’t mind doing all this stuff; I actually enjoy the variety. But it’s just that right now I really want to get back to writing.

The good news, I’ve found, is that reverting back to publishing/promotion/marketing mode doesn’t seem to take anything away from my WIP except time. What I mean is, doing all these necessary tasks for the last book uses a different part of the brain. When I’m in writing mode, I’m thinking, writing, viewing the movie in my head, writing, running that movie backward, writing, changing the movie around, writing. I might sit and stare at the upper right hand corner of the room for a while, but that’s all part of the creative process. That’s letting my mind reel out as far as it wants to go, then pulling it back in, letting it reel off in a different direction to see where that goes.

Changing to marketing mode is like flipping a switch. It’s an entirely different process. It’s no longer the ethereal, freewheeling nebulousness of creating; it’s the very practical and methodical check off the boxes and cross off the items on the list kind of thing. Because it’s so different, it’s actually kind of a break from the writing process without drawing on the same kind of energy. I find that I can go back and forth between the two projects with very little effort, and quickly adjust my brain from one to the other. I may not want to, but I can.

I will say this: we indies rock at multi-tasking. So much of it’s second nature now that I seldom think of everything that I/we do, but just listing a few of the to-dos above was enough to remind me that we often have to be working in several different directions at the same time, or at least be ready to. I really think we all need eight arms and hands, plus an extra head or two would be nice. I think knowing all that we do would boggle the mind of most non-writers. Gone are the days of Hemingway sitting in his dark office in a wooden swivel chair, pounding away on the typewriter with no thought of anything beyond the characters and their arcs. Nowadays, we indie writers have to think about the full picture: writing, editing, formatting, marketing, promotion, packaging, pricing, selling. If we want it to happen, we have to do it, and bounce back and forth between projects as we go. And luckily, we do it — very well.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

14 thoughts on “Push-Pull Between Old and New Writing Projects”

  1. “Gone are the days of Hemingway sitting in his dark office in a wooden swivel chair, pounding away on the typewriter with no thought of anything beyond the characters and their arcs.”

    How true. I’ve read that John Steinbeck was a terrible speller and that he was even worse at punctuation. Of course, in his day there were dedicated editors at the trad publishing houses who would do all that stuff for him. Forget about that today! Downsizing (a/k/a dumbsizing) and budget cuts make that sort of treatment obsolete.

    I’m reading the third book in a trilogy about Cicero. He could turn out five books in about as many months. Of course, HE had slaves, including one who took his dictation in a shorthand that he, the slave, invented (and which we use today) PLUS Cicero often gave him research assignments and told him to fill in those parts of the books. Now wouldn’t THAT be nice?! Not the slave bit, but an assistant who could do all that for you. Well, at least we have Google…

    Your ability to write so well and multitask all the other stuff is awe-inspiring, Melissa!

  2. I’m not even an author and I get this. That getting pulled in many directions and having a lot to keep you busy is a good thing, at least for some people. Hopefully we’re two of them or we’re in trouble. 🙂

  3. I’ve just started one of those free, mini University courses through Future Learn. They’re always fun to do. This one is about Mindfulness and Productivity – the courses cover a range of topics and make for great background research for a story, however this one I’m doing is for self development reasons.

    So far I’ve learnt that multi- tasking is a misnomer. Switching the brain often causes stress and drives the activates the amygdaloid to overload. Between the switch our brains becomes a blank computer screen ; called an Attentional Blink. Eventually our productivity and creativity decreases.

    This is all environmental driven and therefore we can control it within reason. Unfortunately technology, for all its wonderful advantages, encourages continual switching, so- called multi tasking unless we control it.

    I love your books Melissa so, from what I’m discovering via this course, is that you do become more like Hemmingway and just focus on one task at a time. Don’t have tabs open on your computer while you write. Focus on one job, do it properly than move on.

    Easy words from someone who has not yet published my own book ?

      1. I LOVE Future Learn courses, and this one sounds great. Lately I’ve been seeing headlines saying multitasking is a not as beneficial as we once thought. I remember reading when the idea of multitasking first became popular, though, that women are much better at it than men, possibly because child-rearing requires that ability. I do prefer to focus on one thing at a time *when possible.* Not always possible, though. 🙁

        1. I believe multi-tasking is truly a misnomer, as we very seldom (if ever) do more than one thing at a time, but we definitely switch back and forth. I find the switching to be beneficial if I’m stuck at some point on one task; it gives me a chance to move forward on something else, feel like I’m accomplishing something, and then can go back with a fresher perspective. But having multiple tasks staring me in the face, or worse yet, imposing deadlines on me? Ugh. I’ve never been disciplined and don’t plan on starting to be anytime soon!

  4. Ugh, I wish I could multi-task as well and as easily. I seem to be stuck in a kind of serial monogamy when it comes writing/self-publishing. 🙁

  5. I know how you feel. I’ve got all sorts of projects pulling me. It’s very hard to maintain focus. The most obvious solution — hire someone else to do some of these tasks — really isn’t feasible until you’re making a spiffy sum (and of course, hiring others doesn’t eliminate stress; you still have issues with timing, and waiting for others to meet deadlines).

    1. Yes, to my mind, hiring others would bring on a different kind of stress–checking to make sure they’re doing what you want, and doing it in a timely manner. Just thinking about that gives me a bit of the heebie-jeebies. I’ll take the responsibility–and the control–and whatever stress it brings.

  6. Great article. As an Indie we do where a lot of hats don’t we? I find myself in the exact same place as you – finishing one book (rewrites and edits) and starting another one, teaching writing workshops and marketing and flipping back and forth between all of them. I love all of it and your right, if we want it, we have to make it happen. It’s funny as I often think that everyone multi-tasks but I was recently set straight by a few people, who told me it’s not healthy to do more than one thing at once. Yikes, I’m in trouble. Could you imagine, not multitasking? 🙂

    1. No, I can’t. I love the variety, using different parts of the brain, tackling different projects. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but it sure works for me and you, apparently. I think we’re the lucky ones!

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