07 September 2015

the multitasking writer

Have you ever tried to balance plates? Like, the old-school talent competition international contestant who balances plates on high poles balanced delicately on their chin, forearms, feet, and everywhere else imaginable? ... Neither have I. At least, not so literally.

But as writers ... doesn't that seem a lot like what we're always trying to do? It's a balancing act. On forearm number one, we have our careers outside of the literary world. Property Management. Sales. Teaching. Insurance Claims. Facility Management. Taxi Driver. And everything in between. That's your precariously balanced fine china plate you balance. The other forearm? That's where you place your personal priorities. Family. Friends. Church. Colleagues. Your right foot balances your finances. And your left? That's the porcelain plate called writing, and it's hanging on by a thread.


As writers, it seems like everything is always spinning. Even when things feel pretty solid--your career is on track, your family is well-fed, your finances are (relatively) in order--something always feels a little ... wobbly. That's your left foot. It's busy tapping out the melody of your next poem, your new novel, that essay that's been burning a hole in your brain. And once the tapping starts ... you worry about how everything may collapse if you don't get it under control.

What we're talking about here is multitasking, but more than that: prioritizing. How do you prioritize writing when everything and everyone else says writing is at the bottom of your totem pole of life? And how do you console your writing heart when you realize you must get everything else done ... and "make time" for what occupies your every thought?


It's not easy to be a multitasking writer. Personally, here are my balancing plates:

1. Property Manager
2. Student Loans
3. Kittens (my kittos are the loves of my life, but they're ... expensive)
4. Family and Friends
5. Some semblance of faith-based upkeep (sorry, Jesus, I'll read my Bible next week)
6. Decompression Hour (hello, iTunes karaoke playlist)
7. Bloodstone (the literary journal for which I'm poetry editor)
8. Company blog
9. Editing
10. Balancing financials
11. Lit journal reading (unpaid, of course)
12. Oh, hey, I should probably write something

Wouldn't it be lovely if that list could be inverted? If what I want to do could come at the head of everything else I have to do? Isn't writing, as a writer, a thing I HAVE TO DO?!

Living the life of a multitasking writer isn't easy. Because whether you want it to or not, the life puts writing in the second tier. The multitasking comes first.


I don't have answers. Yet. But I do have a "You are not alone in this" up my sleeve. We all feel it. We're all the multitasking writer. The key is to find the balance that works for you. And the trick is tracking down the key.

My homework assignment for myself, and thus for you, is simple: Find a temporary fix. You might not have the key in hand, but I bet you have a crowbar. You can wedge open that writing box and slip some time with pen and paper into the task of multis. Maybe your crowbar is napkin poetry over your lunch break. Maybe it's telling Siri to take a note of the next chapter for your novel. Maybe it's just telling a friend that you have an idea on the tip of your brain and you'll get to it ... if only so they will be the thorn in your writerly side constantly asking, "So ... did you get to that thing yet?" Maybe it's taking on a writing challenge just to force yourself to write, and the knowledge that you'll feel guilty for not seeing it through. Maybe it's something else. Find your fix. And wedge your box open.


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