Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Yep, multi-tasking. I've discovered that for me, at least, it's the only way to live. I read more than one book at once, talk on the phone while cooking dinner, read while watching tv, check email while working on my ms and, juggle several different responsibilities within the writing world.

Now some might call me unfocussed. And maybe they'd be right. But over the years I have found that if I have too little to do, I still don't meet deadlines any faster. Just find other things to fill time. Or sit and twiddle my thumbs while watching the photos in my screensaver float across the monitor.

Part of this comes because so much of my writing goes on in my head. Well, obviously, everyone's does. But for me the scenes in my book, or book reviews or articles start writing themselves at all different times. In my head. I'll be sitting in the car or watching tv or trying to sleep and realize my mind is whirring and clicking away on one of my writing projects. As I think I explained last week in my column about software, planning ahead by planting seeds then just allowing my brain to work by itself, is my preferred way of writing.

So what does all this have to do with multi-tasking? Well, while my mind is working on one project, it dumps info from another for me. So by switching things up, I can maintain a fairly steady stream of writing, some non-fiction, some fiction and now, even some poetry. And writing in one genre helps me with my writing in the other.

But reviews take up time, you say. Reading all those books. But again, reading different styles and genres enriches my own collection of literary tools. Judging contests? Surely a waste of time. Nope - I see problems in my own work by reading that of others. Sound strange? Not if you think about it. Often when we're too familiar with our own writing we can't see that which needs work. But judging/critiquing the work of others will often jog the brain. Aha, you say. This person does this, but so do I. Now I'll take the advice I've given to that other writer and apply it to my own scribbling.

My research column. Pure indulgence. Well, maybe yes. But no - not at all. Even while answering questions on topics totally and seemingly unrelated to my own manuscripts, I find information that proves useful. And by searching out the material to include in my responses, I work on my lateral thinking and analysis skills. The lateral thinking comes in because so many of the questions don't have precise answers, so I have to come up with other ways of thinking up search terms in order to provide the asked for help. And, to be frank, I enjoy it. And being happy helps me with my other writing.

In the end, I think that's the most important aspect of multi-tasking - it keeps me happy. And challenges me to use a variety of skills. When I'm happy, I write. My fiction scenes, once fully written in my head, seem to come out in blurts of writing, usually taking me two to three hours. But in that time I can write between three and four thousand words. So I no longer worry about the fact I don't sit and write fiction from 8 am to 5 pm every day. It's just not my way.

And it seems I'm not alone! Romance writer (and blogger) Alison Kent has written about this as well. See her take on this topic.

Teresa (happy multi-tasker)

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