Monday, January 11, 2010


I once told a co-worker that I couldn't multi-task.

"No," she said, "you are a woman. You can multi-task."

"No, I really can't."

"My husband can't wash dishes and talk at the same time," she said.

OK, that's bad. I can do that. But I'm not GOOD at multi-tasking, in spite of any assumptions of my femininity, child-rearing abilities or previous teaching experience. And I must point out that my husband is much better at multi-tasking than I am, so it isn't always a gender-split.

All that is why I find it so incredibly odd that I am working on two manuscripts at the moment.

At the beginning of September, I perused a book called THE CREATIVE WRITING MFA HANDBOOK by Tom Kealey and found this suggestion:

"Work on a few projects at once. I'm not talking a dozen. I'm talking three or four. They may be in different stages: first draft, editing, final draft, fun. When you get bored with one, or if you're blocked with another, you'll always have something to work on. Sometimes it helps one work when you ignore it consciously to work on another. Often your unconscious mind is still working on the other."

It sounded like good advice at the time. Goodness knows, I get bored when I'm revising. So this summer I started actively looking for another, new sparkly and fun project to begin. What's funny about reading this previous post is that my wish was granted. I have a sparkly new idea, which I'm madly in love with, and for which I have now roughly outlined and written three chapters. My plan is to continue work on my current wip, and once a week write another rough chapter for the new idea.

Problem? Well, I'm not good at multi-tasking. I mean, physically, of course I can make myself stick to this new schedule. But mentally? I'm not so sure. I mean, yes, I do get bored when I'm revising, but at the same time, I find it hard to turn on and off my passions like a faucet. And what if I lose interest in my current wip because I'm gallivanting around with this new idea? What if I miss a trick because my mind isn't in the game?

Do any of you work on multiple projects at once? Do you struggle switching from one to the other? Any words of wisdom?


  1. Hi Anne,

    I'm having huge problems with this! I have a wip going through a major revision, plus the thing that I started while I was letting that percolate. I'm nearly finished with the revision... at the point of just needing to get on with it and get it done. But all I can think about is the shiny, sparkly other wip. *sigh*

    So if you get any good advice then pass it on because I feel your pain!

  2. At least I know I'm not alone! Good luck with your revision--I will definitely let you know if I have any advice to pass on!

  3. I always *try* to work on several things at once, but it never seems to work for me. I either get caught up in one project and see it through to the end, or contract an epic case of writer's block and give up on ALL of them. Apparently I can only focus on one thing at a time, no matter how much I would dearly love to embrace the multi-tasking theory. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to do it. :-)

    Good luck!!

  4. I can multi task and I still have a tough time doing multiple projects! It's tricky to get 'into' each stories world all over again. You know?

  5. I know exactly what you mean about getting "into" a story, Christina.

    hmmmm... I hoped y'all would have reams of good advice. Maybe this should serve as a warning instead though? Or maybe you're right, Joanna, and my mind will decide for me, whether I want it to or not!


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