Monday, October 05, 2009

One thing at a time...

I have so much I want to say on this blog - photographs from my travels, new 50 word stories, thoughts about writing, the creative process, my new post at the LSE, books I've been reading - that to be honest, sometimes I just look at it all and feel so exhausted about where to start I just give up. It can feel like I'm a pot about to burst with steam. Much easier just to keep the lid tightly on and do nothing.

Is anyone else the same?

And a couple of months ago, thinking about just this, I started to wonder if women of my age, of any age actually, hadn't been taken for a ride with all the stories we were fed about how much better we were at multi-tasking than men. Gawd, I even felt smug about it at the time. One of my most successful stories was started in the kitchen as I scribbled down notes while cooking supper for my kids and playing junior scrabble with them at the same time. More work, more jobs ... bring them on.

But now things seem to be swinging the other way. An article in the New York Times suggests that multitaskers just think they are doing lots of things successfully.

Trouble is, it's not just circumstance. There's so much I want to do. And not enough time to do it. Of course, I need to prioritise, but maybe I need a different attitude too. One that can adapt to my writing life, and doesn't keep telling me I'm doing everything wrong because I'm trying to follow research designed for an office day. A friend has suggested this book, Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher, so I'll give that a go and report back.

And in the meantime, I'm going to throw chronology to the wind on this blog, and over the next couple of weeks, post the things I fancy talking about whether they come from yesterday, a week ago or even three months ago. The key thing is to unscrew the top of the pot off carefully, and let just one thing out at a time.

12 comments:

Alex said...

I feel the same. The trouble is that if you have many interests, there's so much creativity out there to highlight, comment on, etc, as well as your own stuff to write, that it does feel overwhelming at times. I think having various outlets is good though so that it's not crammed all into one place e.g. running your bench blog.

Cornflower said...

I was thinking the very same thing this morning as I tried to spin too many plates at the one time!
I'll await your thoughts on the Sher book with great anticipation - and possibly a pile of broken crockery...

Kathryn said...

I love the idea of unscrewing the pot's lid slowly. I think that for me, creative thinking is like a breath of air blowing down through a recorder. Lifting one finger here or another there makes a different sound. It would be nice to be able to make more than one note at a time but recorder's just can't do that. I'm learning to appreciate the individual tones of the notes as they come instead of an unrealistic, multifaceted symphony from one instrument. Now I'm off to get my car MOT'd, the least creative act I can think of!

Matthew said...

I rarely have time to write these days between a full time job and school, but I've been keeping notes of my ideas. Things I would like to blog about, I jot into a note with the intention of writing about it later.

The wonderful thing I am seeing happen is that, over time, the notes pile up and I no longer want to blog about them... but I can see the value in the idea and how it could really add to a story. Instead of dedicating the time to a full blog entry on the idea, it will become a snippet of conversation, an observation, or a setting someday in the future when I have time to write again.

Evernote is the greatest :-)

andewallscametumblindown said...

I was never good at multi-tasking. Maybe I'm not a real woman? ~Miriam

Sarah Salway said...

Alex, yes - the trouble is when the outlets get too many too! It's like being a kid in a sweetshop. I want it ALL. Even the pies.

And yes, Karen- I'll let you know how I get on! I'm not really surprised we're similar here, twin!

Love the analogy, Kathryn. I always come back to cooking and writing for some reason, but music works beautifully too.

Matthew, that's good to be reminded that the process is what's important - thank you.

And Miriam, you're just smart. No worries!!!!

annie clarkson said...

Yes, I can relate to this. I often feel I have hardly any time for all the things I want to do/write about plus the things I have to do, no choice about it. It means I ricochet from one thing to the next, and then sometimes can't do anything at all... I look forward to your random unsequential blogging... one at a time

Dark Puss said...

I made a long comment on Cornflower's related post today; maybe it will help you too?

Sarah Salway said...

That's useful, Dark Puss - and here's the link to those comments if anyone else is interested. Very helpful.
Thanks, Annie. It seems it's something that is affecting us all - I wonder how much the internet helps or hinders!

Jeannette said...

Hear, hear... I like what you say about throwing chronology to the wind. And I think it is true, when we write we are not doing office jobs, so we can only extrapolate so much from any research in that area. Am curious to see what the Sher book has to say...

Dark Puss said...

Jeannette, I'm not sure I agree with you about writing being so different from other forms of activity. The problem discussed here seems to me to be independent of what ever it is one is doing and much more to do with what distracts/interrupts us and that, I think, is a fairly universal problem. Obviously tips about meeting scheduling are not likely to be useful in many contexts, but as I expressed in my comment on Cornflower's weblog I firmly believe that the major problem lies with those of us who feel stressed by a multiplicity of demands upon our time, and it is from within that we must seek the answers.

I too will be interested to see what this "Sher" book comes up with, but I'll be much more interested to hear from people who have successfully followed that approach. My perspective is that recognising that there is a problem to be solved and then doing something (possibly anything) about it is the key step. I'm absolutely not convinced that there is any magic solution to be found in any book; perhaps that is why it is such a fertile area for publishers ...

jem said...

The problem I have is that when I have no time I seem to be bursting with things I want to do, but when I carve out a chunk of 'free time', and therefore the potential chance to do all those things, I feel suddenly daunted and don't know where to start. I feel like one of those jerky drivers (I'm not a driver at all) who is all stoppy-starty. I can't cruise smoothly.