Yesterday I wrote about the strange feeling of finishing a big push—and for me, the push encompassed several projects and went on for months—to find that nothing currently requires your urgent attention.
Yes, I’ve got things to do, from thinking about how to redesign my website to proposals for new projects to a mountain of laundry, but none of it screams “I should have been done yesterday!” (Okay, maybe the laundry.) Yesterday I looked up from a long period of intense, sustained focus and asked, “So what now?”—and no single thing leaped forward to claim my attention.
My mind feels kinda like the ball in a pinball machine. Deadline pressure was the coiled spring that held the ball in place. When that let go, I ricocheted around from one task to the next to the next, trying to do everything and accomplishing nothing. I’m not usually a list-maker, but I finally had to write up a to-do list and prioritize its items to have any hope of accomplishing anything at all. (What I should have done was taken the day off!)
I admit it—I suck at multitasking. My husband can write a chapter in a technical book while he watches an old movie, answers emails, makes phone calls, and checks the news, all without missing a beat. Not me. I work best when I close my email program and my Web browser and focus on what I’m doing. If I’m working on fiction, that’s the only way I can get deeply enough into my characters’ world to see, hear, and feel their story as it unfolds. For me, trying to multitask is like having someone stand beside me, poking me every few minutes, saying, “Did you see that new video? Did you read about this important news story? How are you gonna answer that editor’s email? Oh, and maybe your daughter has updated her Facebook status—better check …”
I admire people who can multitask, but I’m not one of them. Figuring that out has made my writing life a whole lot easier.