A couple of years ago, I met up with a friend for coffee to discuss our latest writing projects. This was the gist of our conversation:
Me: “I’m still plugging away on my manuscript. I’m about halfway done and hoping to finish in the next month or so. How about you?”
Friend: “Oh, I’ve got a handful of projects in the works.”
Me: “A handful?”
Friend: “Yeah, I always have a few. I tend to get bored after about 30 minutes and need to switch gears.”
Yeah, I didn’t get his response. Honestly, I still don’t. How can writers work on multiple projects at once? How? To leap out of one world and into another? To burrow into the mind of one protagonist and then dig back out and burrow into a completely different one? To carefully thread one plot and then yank the needle out and start threading another?
How, how how?
I. Don’t. Get. It.
But, maybe you do? Maybe you’re like my friend and you enjoy hopping around from one writing project to the next? If so, then kudos to you. Seriously. I’m in awe of your ability to creatively multi-task, because I just can’t. And, believe me, I’ve tried. In the past few months, I’ve juggled various writing contests, NaNoWriMo, and two children’s books (my nephew’s annual Christmas gifts). And although I’ve successfully completed all of them, I can’t say I’m completely satisfied with them. I feel like each one was written with a touch of A.D.D. I’d find myself sitting at my computer typing away when suddenly my mind would drift off to “that one character from that other story” or “that thing that happened in that scene from that other story”…
Creative multi-tasking…I just can’t do it. I just don’t like it. I suppose in a way I feel like I’m cheating on my characters when I jump from project to project. I can hear each of their indignant voices yelling, “Hey! Where are you going? You’re supposed to be focusing on me!” But how can I when another character from another story is shouting at me to focus on them instead? It’s like I’m standing in a crowded room and everyone is waving at me. And I just don’t know where to look anymore.
“Me, me, me!”
It’s finally gotten to the point where I need to step back, take a breath and return to my creative roots: One project at a time. ONE! So, that means my plan for the next month is to write a short ghost story for an open call submission.
I’m not allowed to think about any other project, not even my unfinished NaNoWriMo manuscript, Fallers–which is by far the loudest and most demanding voice amongst all my projects. But I have to ignore its beckoning calls and waving hands. I have to! Because technically–technically–there’s no deadline for Fallers. There is, however, one for this ghost story (early January). So, obviously, that needs my attention first and foremost. And attention it will get, starting this week!
How about the rest of you? Are you able to handle multiple projects at once? Or are you like me and need to focus on one project at a time?
- NaNoWriMo 2013 (rblackhurst.com)
- How to Keep Your Story Momentum Going (522dontstopwriting.wordpress.com)
- Confession: I Have Bad Habits When I Write: (jenspenden.wordpress.com)
3 thoughts on “Confession: I can’t creatively multi-task”
Wow, I haven’t considered this question before. But since you asked… I can READ any number of different stories at the same time, easily jumping in and out of worlds from multiple genres, and I tend to leave books all over the house as a consequence. But writing? One at a time. Haven’t even considered doing it any other way. I’ve even watched what I listen to on the radio, to avoid inviting in a character from a book I’m not working on at the moment. Because I definitely “get” the experience of characters demanding my attention.
Glad you understand! Strangely, I need to be reading a really good book while I write. The better the book, the better my own work.