Doing two important things at once improves the quality of procrastination. I don’t mean actually doing two important things at the same time, but having two important things you’re working on.1
This is what I’ve noticed. Usually I have a few projects going on. I’m writing something, editing something else, and maybe doing something that would fall under the realm of ‘producing’, i.e. booking a location and scheduling actors. So when I wake up in the morning to work on something or when it’s late at night and I can’t sleep because I didn’t work on anything that day, I have to pick one of the three to tackle.
If I’m feeling brave, I tackle the most difficult one (usually producing, which is not my favorite thing to do). If I’m not feeling brave or if I’m just not in a good mood, I’ll procrastinate on the difficult thing and write or edit instead. So I’m procrastinating but I’m still working on something important. If I get blocked on one thing, I have something else I can work on, which to me is the big advantage of working on multiple things at once. The disadvantage is that I’m splitting my subconscious free space among several things.
I don’t know which way of working is ultimately better, but I suspect that the marginal value of another project depends on whether or not it utilizes a mental state not already engaged by one of the existing projects. So if you’re writing one screenplay, starting a second one before the first is finished will hurt you more than it helps you.2
Why not just procrastinate by doing the dishes or surfing the web? I think I don’t because I trained myself through brute force (willpower) into working on something important every morning.
And I’ve convinced myself that I will go insane if I don’t at least write a page or two per day. This guilt comes in handy when I can’t sleep. It’s the type of anxiety that moves you forward rather than holding you back, so in a way I found a way to harness my anxiety for good.
I hope that writing all this down will allow me to stop thinking about it so much.