You Can’t Multitask Anything, But Especially Not a New Novel

“Multitasking is a computer-derived term. We have one processor. We can’t do it”   – Janice Marturano, as quoted in 10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Okay, so I’m going to make this week’s entry quick, for several reasons, but the primary one has to do with the title of this entry, and the quote above. Today is actually my 19th wedding anniversary, so, as you can imagine, I have other things to do. 

That said, I have more than enough time to make the singular point I want to make this week, which is simply this: even if it was actually possible for human beings to multitask, trying to multitask with something as important as a new novel is a fool’s errand. 

I don’t mean to go all preachy. It’s just that, being the somewhat slow learner that I am, I only came to fully appreciate this truth at the very end of last week, and so I’m excited to share it with you, in the short amount of time I’ve put aside for this entry. 

If you are or aspire to be a “self-published” author, there’s an important lesson here, so please stick with me. 

What happened last week is I finished the second draft of the second title New Bayou Books is going to put out. It’s called All Saints Day of the Dead, and it’s this kind of quasi murder story set around the Black Pot festival in Lafayette and a small cemetary in South Louisiana on All Saints Day. 

So, I was happy to finish the second draft on schedule (according to my one episode per week formula, which I’ve talked about in other blogs), in part because I know I desperately need to turn my attention to other business related matters associated with starting New Bayou Books. I’ll spare you the laundry list of things I need to do (all things I have never done before, of course–and that’s a whole ‘nother blog in itself), but I can tell you it’s not a short list. 

Meanwhile, I’ve also been reading the book on daily meditation practice from Dan Harris, and came across the discussion from which the quote on multitasking was extracted about the same time as I finished the second draft and started to pivot my attention to the business side of New Bayou Books. 

It occurred to me then that this is a unique problem that self-published authors have to manage: at a minimum, you will have to manage the process of marketing one book while you write the next book. I suppose this is still something authors at bigger publishing houses have to deal with, to some extent, but it’s certainly a much greater burden if you’re a singular operator. And, if you’re not just trying to sell individual books, but to build a company that aspires to kick start a literary revolution, like New Bayou Books, the degree of complexity is that much greater.  

I don’t necessarily have any brilliant insights or hacks to offer on this problem of marketing one book while you’re writing the next one, but I will offer two pieces of advice, for what it’s worth. 

First, understand that you can’t, actually, multitask. You can’t do two things at once. You can switch back and forth between things, but that’s tricky business too, because you lose a lot in the transitions. The brain takes time to adjust to the pivot from one activity to another. I believe that friction is even greater when one of the activities is a creative process like writing a book. 

The second piece of advice involves advanced planning. The one thing that’s been helpful for me, while actually trying to bring two books to market at essentially the same time (Tattoos and Tans in August, and All Saints Day of the Dead in late October), is advance scheduling. What I mean is, projecting far out into the future, starting from your most “public deadline”–the date you want your book to go on sale, for example–and working backwards from there. If you plan your schedule in the right way for you, it will give you the piece of mind you need to block big chunks of time for writing, knowing that you have enough time for the creative process that must supersede the other, practical concerns of marketing your books. So, plan ahead and make sure the writing takes precedence. Because, like Tom Petty (and others) said, without the song, you don’t have shit. 

Okay. That’s it! For this week anyway . . . I have an anniversary to celebrate. Catch you later.

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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