The Multitasking Nature of the Writer

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me what being a writer entails, I’d be… skint. Not just because the British pound is worth naff all nowadays (moving on, non-politics zone here) but mainly because no-one asks.

I think it’s because some people assume that they know what a writer is and does. Like them, before I became a writer I thought I knew what it was all about: have ideas, write ideas, chop it up a bit, check spellings and grammar, publish…

Oh to be so gloriously naive.

Being a writer isn’t just about doing the writing malarkey. To fully get on board with this gig, you have to be a serious multi-tasker and juggler of multiple roles.

Team Leader


Admittedly the ‘team’ consists of just me but believe me, rounding me up in the morning when I’ve just got out of bed is harder than being the manager of 100 unruly employees.

I can be a hard task master sometimes, although my team leader is fond of coffee breaks so we rub along together quite nicely.

My team leader also fakes encouragement on procrastination days when we both know that I’m just skilled in making it look like something happened.

Marketing Executive

063a78ed80c53acda39cf76660b718d9 The biggest surprise for me when I began writing was how much other stuff you have to do beside writing. If you are going to self-publish, you have to market yourself. I’ve heard that even if you do go down the traditional route, you can also be expected to do a fair bit of this yourself for your debut novel.

I’m not going to write much about it here as I have firm views about how far I’m prepared to go with this. I turn into the Hulk when I get ranty and it ain’t pretty.

Self-promotion is a personal strategy. All I will say is, I engage as well as promote. That makes me a failure as hard-nosed marketing Exec., but possibly more savvy and genuine.


1351124406967_1781066I’m working on developing the skills of a multiple bilingual boss of a translator. This is necessary if I’m ever going to make sense of my freely written first drafts.
What the actual hell is this strange language? I’m currently looking for a course in ‘How to translate the mysterious ramblings of Lisa Sell’. It must be out there somewhere…


1348155573657_9716902 I was a teacher once (read more about it here: Lessons Learned from Teaching). I loved planning lessons. I think this has transferred into coming up with ideas for blog posts and my fiction writing.

As an ex-English teacher I’m more hard on myself in terms of my grammar, punctuation and spelling than I ever was on my students. This works well for writing in some ways but it hurts when editing. I’m learning to step away from the red pen. It’s a shouty tool.

Mrs Sell can be mean, and she regularly confiscates my phone for looking at Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing.


shepherd-fell-asleep-short-meme My ideas are often like naughty sheep; they need serious shepherding. I have considered chanting ‘Bah Ram Ewe’ at them, like Babe did in the film. Do ideas relate to sheep based mantras? I can think of other statements I make that end in the phonetic ‘ewe/you‘, when I can’t sort the ideas out logically. However, from experience, I’ve found ideas aren’t amenable when you swear at them.

I need a trusty sheep dog to rustle up those woolly little ideas that run amok in the middle of the night, bleating in my ear. There’s no way I count sheep nowadays to combat insomnia. Those little suckers get enough night time thinking space as it is.

Pushy parent

d8e48704638cc14fe6e3877015132ac8I need to find my pushy parent persona. I’m working on that scarily focused mother that instills Teflon-coated confidence in their protege.

My inner parent is far too nice and a little inappropriate at times. She tells me to have a go, threatens to cuff the bullies round the head if they’re mean to me, and instructs me to ‘woman up wet pants’ when I’m having a pity party.

I prefer unpushy parent. At least she’s not a narcissist and she doesn’t withhold chocolate for fear of me piling on the pounds.


antidepressantI’m going to start billing myself soon for all the therapy I’ve dished out to my my stressy, doubting self. My client is so needy.

Thank goodness she’s now on meds as I’ve started pretending I’m not in recently just to escape the mood swings.


Just Call Me Library GirlThis is a role I love! From childhood, I’ve devoured books like a less furry book version of the Cookie Monster. Since I’ve started writing, even more so.

At home, we have recently acquired a new bookshelf because I am becoming the hoarder and keeper of all the books. I married a man who loves books too. I allow him to be Assistant Librarian when he’s on his best behaviour.


fd59409097825afbc6c2b0e271cabea2c0My negotiation skills are being honed. I’ve had words with myself when I’m on the edge and ready to jump to escape the novel. The drama created here is better than any action film.

I’ve negotiated with social media that it really must stop seducing me away from my writing. I often fail.

I’ve come to an agreement with coffee that it has to cast its magic spell upon me from morning onward so I can do the day.

So there you have it people, this writery business requires multiple personalities. This is no ‘one role fits all’ kind of gig. It’s exhausting. I’m off for a nap writing session to ruminate upon it all.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

40 comments on “The Multitasking Nature of the Writer

  1. So true. Being a writer entails being a lot of other things/roles. You’re also a publicist, promoter, brand marketer, etc. There’s a similar quote about this very thing where the authoress stated being a writer, reader and editor at the same time.

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      I could have written a book about the other roles a writer has to employ. Now there’s a thought…

  2. Oh, the many hats of a ‘writer.’ Don’t forget psychologist (to understand your characters’ motivations), the comedian (we can’t have our readers too serious now, can we?), social commentator, idealist, drama queen, and researcher! We should get paid heaps more than zero! Lol.

  3. I’m so glad someone wrote this post! I once had an interview for a part-time job, and the manager looked at my resume that outlined my writing/blogging accomplishments and said “Oh, you’re not working right now I see.” First time I ever rolled my eyes in an interview. How about as bloggers we add “technical guru”, “guest post editor”, and “entrepreneur” to the list?

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      I do think that secretly people I know don’t ask because they’re worried about the awkwardness of me pretending that I actually do things. The lazy writer who is writing that novel for years is unfortunately deeply ingrained!

      Feel free to add to the blogger roles – I’m certainly on board with that!

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      Comedian goes without saying. You’ve got to be a fool to try this gig out!

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      Glad I kept your many selves informed and entertained!

  4. People tell me all the time, “you have such a gift for writing.” I think, “if I could figure out a happy way to get paid the millions my words are worth…” Seriously, it’s not easy to make a living writing. That’s why it’s my side gig. 🙂 I’m also quite nervous that if became my full time job, it would actually feel like a JOB.

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      I hear you. I did make it a full time job earlier this year and frankly it scares the life out of me but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      Hope you enjoyed the writing as well! I love a good meme though…

  5. One of the things I love about being a writer is how many different hats you get to wear. You have to be inside your protagonist’s head and your antagonist’s head, their sidekicks’ and assistants’ and minions’ as well. Not to mention all of the “real world” things you mentioned, such as marketing manager and social media expert. Some jobs are easy, others are tough. But they can all be fun under the right light. 🙂 (In some cases, the light is made of molten dark chocolate.)

  6. I’m a frustrated writer and I can relate to this. One skill a writer needs to have is empathy, which comes from being able to understand what it’s like being in another person’s shoes. So I believe playing different roles is necessary if we want to be better writers. 🙂

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      Empathy is definitely a key skill for any writer. I’ve never looked at the multiple roles as enhancing that. Thanks for the insight!

    1. Huge apologies for not replying sooner! WordPress wasn’t notifying me of comments made for a while. So frustrating!

      It certainly involves a great deal being a writer.

  7. This is so hilarious because it is so true! I have always felt to be a great writer you need to be a highly caffeinated multi-tasker who constantly questions themselves if they may suffer from some sort of multiple personality disorder lol! One day they will figure out a way to clone me but until then I am thankful for daily planners.

    1. Caffeine is definitely a staple! Now you’ve got me thinking about this cloning business. I see the future of writing…

      Thanks so much for commenting and following. Welcome on board!

  8. This is so true. It does give us great life skills though! I get asked all the time what being a writer entails, but I tend to skip over all of these and focus on where I write. That’s my self-promotion right there. 😉

    1. We are certainly well-rounded beings, particularly me with the amount of chocolate that is required to get me motivated! Thanks for reading and commenting – very much appreciated.

  9. Lisa – I am so with you on the multiple personalities required for this whole cyber writing gig, especially. And the marketing thing … it’ nearly a full-time job in itself, and I feel guilty sometimes of spending so much time on it. But – I guess it’s just a huge game of give and take with what you want to be doing and what’s necessary to be noticed! Love the post!

    1. Writing is certainly more complex than I ever thought it would be. It is hard to know how to balance out the marketing and writing. Both take up a lot of time. I try to keep reminding myself that writing is what I do and promotion is the sideline.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

  10. Oh my word! This is too good!
    I loved your breakdown of all the hats writers must wear! There’s definitely so much more that goes into begin a writer than putting words on a page. 🙂

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