Monday, April 4, 2011

I Can't Multitask


I've always thought of myself as a multitasker, but lately I've come to see that I'm not. Sure, I can watch TV while crocheting or looking at polymer clay genitals on, but does that really count? (No. No it doesn't.)

When I say that I can't multitask, I mean that I'm unable to juggle writing and, well, doing any other project at the same time. The other projects typically are craft projects (I've been writing a craft blog for over four years now), but they also include animating and doing home improvement stuff.

Here's how it usually happens: I start to write but I can't stop thinking about the Other Thing. I should really be working on the Other Thing, shouldn't I? I mean, the story can wait. It doesn't have a deadline. But someone is waiting for the Other Thing. Sure, they said I could take my time but it's been days/weeks/months already...I'll just stop writing for a little while and go finish the Other Thing real quick and then I'll be able to write without anything hanging over my head!

That's how it starts, anyway.

This first happened a few months ago with a short film I was animating. I'd been working on it for eight months already and I just wanted it done. I promised myself that once I finished it, I would take on no new Other Things so I could concentrating on writing. And finish the film I did. It felt so amazing to have no obligations! I had several weeks where I wrote every day and I even finished the first short story that my husband said was "good" (as opposed to "fine" or "grunt" which had been his reaction to most of my previous writing attempts).

It was all going fabulously until I got an email from a friend. Her kids were dying for some Harry Potter dolls. Could I possibly crochet some? Ooh, Harry Potter dolls! That sounded like fun. And it couldn't be that difficult, all I had to do was modify a pattern I already had. Add some hair and robes. Easy-peasy! And I could do it in my spare time...

That was the trap. At first I only worked on the dolls in the evenings and continued to write during the day. But I didn't realize how complicated the dolls would be. Two weeks passed and I hadn't even finished one. Why, it took me a solid day just to make Hermione's hair! At that rate the dolls wouldn't be done until my friend's kids left for college.

So I put down my pen (metaphorically, since I almost always type) and took up the crochet hook full-time. But though I've been crocheting and embroidering for a solid week now, I've only finished one doll. Meanwhile I think about all the stories I ought to be working on and I get angry at myself for not being a "real" writer.

If I was a "real" writer, nothing would be able to stop me from writing. If I was a "real" writer, writing would be the only thing I'd want to do. Writers write with distractions all the time. I mean, JK Rowling wrote while raising a child on her own and Stephen King wrote while recovering from a horrific accident. My problems are piddly compared with those. If I keep getting pulled away by measly things like dolls, I'll never be a "real" writer. Maybe I should give up.

All this self-loathing results in me stomping around the house and letting out random screams of frustration which scare the cats and confuse my husband. He tries to help by saying that I should do whatever makes me happy. The problem is, many things make me happy and I don't have time to do all of them. How do I choose?

I'd like to say that I've found a solution but so far I haven't. Several times now I've started a story but I don't get more than a couple pages in before going back to the Other Thing. Maybe if I finally finish the Other Thing, I can go back to writing full-time. It's a nice thought and it keeps me going, but I know there will always be other Other Things pulling me away. If I can't figure out how to balance them then I may not end up writing anything more than this blog.

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