I used to think that in order to be focused and effective, I could work on only one writing assignment at a time. I worried that if I tried to write multiple pieces, I would become easily distracted and unable to give each piece the effort it deserves.
A few weeks ago I found myself faced with three deadlines, two separate articles and one for a piece I was editing. Just the thought of working on all three simultaneously had me anxious…but I am NOT one to ignore a deadline! I had no choice but to buckle down and get to work. And it turned out to be such a great experience; I learned the value of juggling several mentally demanding tasks at once, and I have become a better writer for it.
The beautiful benefits of working on more than one writing assignment is that you have a wider creative field, so ideas flow more easily. Often you can use them for one of the projects at hand, which is great for your short-term deadlines. Sometimes the ideas that come to you may not fit any of your current projects, but they will tend to be ideas with potential, so you can jot them down for future use. If you do experience a period where ideas shy away from you, then editing – which requires more analysis and less creativity – can help keep your mind active. By having simultaneous deadlines, you are under more stress to finish the job at hand, but the fact that your brain must stretch into different spheres increases your ability to do so. It’s similar to academically successful students who participate in extracurricular activities; they have just as much studying to do as every other student, but they also have other commitments. Since they understand that their time is limited, they know they cannot simply idle away the minutes, so they finish their tasks quicker and, quite often, at a higher caliber.
So if you’re worried about taking on a couple of different projects, don’t be! Working on them simultaneously will provide great practice in mental multitasking. Starting new writing projects is a great trick to overcome periods where you experience a shortage of ideas. In either case, working at several writing tasks simultaneously will undoubtedly help you improve your craft.