Why You Should Have Several Pieces on Your Stove

3 min read
  • Working on multiple pieces at the same time can increase your productivity as a writer.
  • Journalists use this technique to create synergies and to always have something to work on.
  • Writing several articles simultaneously can also reduce stress because it makes writers less dependent.

Journalists often work on multiple articles at the same time. They have several deadlines looming, but they’re also working on stories independently that were not assigned to them. Why do they do that instead of focusing all their energy on one particular piece of writing?

As a reporter, you face various roadblocks when writing. You have to wait for sources to respond, you can’t find material that corroborates your story, or there’s an event that you have to wait for to take place. If writing is your day job, you can’t wait for all those problems to resolve themselves.

Use your time more efficiently

Having several pieces on the stove gives you the liberty to always be working. If a crucial source for piece A doesn’t respond in time, maybe you’ll get a hold of some sources for pieces B or C. This is not only efficient, but it also deprives you of excuses. And as writers, we tend to collect excuses abundantly to have them handy in case of emergency.

Writing multiple articles at the same time can result in synergetic effects. A discovery in one piece may lead to another in a different story. Often, your pieces will be at least remotely related to each other, thus increasing the chance of lucky coincidences taking place.

But there is another benefit of having multiple articles cooking—it’s one of the most essential ingredients of good writing: time. Time to distance yourself from your writing far enough so you can see your work with the innocent eyes of a reader and also be open again to new points and information.1 We often despise the advice of letting a piece sit for a while and return to it only once it has aged. Well, if we want to publish regularly, we can’t take so much time off unless we’re working on many articles simultaneously. That way, we can always let a couple of them marinate—to stay in the delicious realm of cooking terms a little longer.

Reduce stress and dependency

“The feature writer who doesn’t have two or three projects bubbling on his own stove is doing only half a job,”2 writes William E. Blundell, who used to teach Wall Street Journal writers in the art of reporting. He argues reporters are obliged to have a few independent stories on the stove instead of almost starving while waiting for their editors to assign them a new one.

Whether you’re a reporter working for a newspaper or a writer publishing on your own: When you’re being asked what you’re currently working on, and you can refer to only one meager piece, then you might not be using your time as efficiently as you could.

Multiple articles don’t necessarily mean multiple times the stress. They can actually reduce the pressure associated with writing because this way of working puts you in the driver’s seat. No longer do you need to rely on others to get your work done, at least not to the same degree. This can be very liberating.

  1. William E. Blundell, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing (Penguin Group, 1988), 1. Jump back.︎
  2. V.A. Howard, and J.H. Barton, Thinking on Paper (Harper Collins, 1988), 38. Jump back.︎