Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WIP Weds. and Multitasking

The topic of our current blog chain is multitasking, and so it seemed appropriate to do a little multitasking myself, and combine my blog chain post with my WIP Wednesday one.

Okay, so the question for this blog chain was brought to us by Terri.

Do you focus on one project at a time, or do you have many irons in the fire at any given moment?

My ability, or lack thereof, to effectively focus on more than one thing at once is why this post is being posted late Wednesday afternoon, rather than the early AM hours. You see last night when I was supposed to be writing this blog post, I was instead dealing with a toddler who had suddenly decided that rather than going to sleep, he would fuss and cry for several hours.

Now if I were a good little multitasker I would have been able to bounce him on one knee while simultaneously typing out my post, and just to make things interesting, I'd be mentally beginning to sort through my taxes for next year - sure it's only August, but one can never think too far ahead.

The thing is, I'm not a very good multitasker. Even when I believe that I'm effectively multitasking, I'm usually just trying to do five things at once and ending up a spastic mess who walks into a room intending to grab my car keys, but by the time I reach the room have completely forgotten what I came there for in the first place.

And according to an NPR piece that I read several months back - no one is good at multitasking, or more specifically no one actually can multitask - in reality we just flip between different tasks very quickly.

So how does all of this apply to writing? Hmm... well, I don't know. Well, I did know - I was definitely going somewhere with this train of thought - but then I started rereading that NPR article and lost what I was going to say.

And maybe that's my point. Yeah, I'll go with that.

When I switch back and forth between writing too many different things, I lose track of what I was going to write next and I get confused and then my writing gets confused to the point where I might as well be typing in the wingdings font.

The real problem I have with multitasking is that when I have several pots bubbling away, somehow they all end up on the backburner and procrastination becomes way too easy. On the other hand, when I am focused on just one specific project it is easier to set specific goals for that project and keep myself moving forward with it.

Multitasking is why I haven't gotten much done this past week. I am right now querying, revising, brainstorming something new, and trying to work on some shorter writing projects on the side. And at the end of the week when Wednesday rolls around (as it always inevitably does) I feel like I haven't accomplished much on any of these.

So what about you? Are you better at multitasking than I am and do you find it an effective way to work on your writing?

And to follow this chain you can go to Rebecca's post before mine, or tomorrow find Amanda's post when she has the last word on this topic.

If you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!


  1. Great post! I have crazy amounts of respect for parents who try to write. I can barely keep my focus with my dog hanging around, I couldn't imagine doing it with a toddler. Kudos for getting anything done at all :)

  2. Can I multitask? Sometimes. Do I? Not often.

    Normally, I work on one writing project at a time, though I might jot down notes on another project as they slap me upside the head. For whatever reason, writing and reading seem to provide inspiration for other writing projects, which is why I keep a notepad handy-dandy whenever I'm writing or reading. Boy, some English teacher somewhere is probably having a fit after seeing that sentence.

    I seem to multitask or whatever on weekends. I'm currently revising one project to query, and I have another project waiting in the wings. I take time on the weekends to work on the other project.

    Oh, and don't feel bad about forgetting why you went into that room in the first place. It happens to me all the time! Now, could someone please tell me why I'm here??


  3. I typically don't multi-task when it comes to my writing - unless you count working on short stories about my WIP characters.

    But, since the writing/revising of my current WIP has stalled (I blame moving from one apartment to another and still NOT being unpacked), I'm planning on starting a whole new short story tonight, completely unrelated to my novel. I have no idea what the short story will be about, but I've had a first line of the short story stuck in my head for a few days now, and it's begging to be part of some story. Who knows? It might end up being related to my novel after all!

  4. Great question! I try to mentally organize my day by what I can do when my kids are up and what I can't. Then I flip between stuff. :-) Not sure I'd say I multitask with writing though. I tend to go straight through, on one project at a time. :-)

  5. I used to juggle eight subjects in high school (I gave up lunch to take Latin. Yes, I am that nerdy) and now I can't even drive and talk on the phone. I'm incapable of multi-tasking at all!

  6. Lordy, tell me about it. James is constantly interrupting me when I write. I have to make sure he has something to do.

    Multitasking. I have no problem multitasking at work. As far as writing is concerned, I can only concentrate on one story at a time. I try to ignore the other little voices in my head wanting me to write their story. I probably should keep a handy dandy notebook like scott so can write down ideas, rather than ignore them.

    Believe me. I've done the same thing with forgetting what I'm doing or what I walked in a room to get. Hope your little one is feeling better and you get some sleep. Is he teething???

    My WIP Wednesday post is up now.

  7. I can't multitask at all. I tried and it doesn't work for me. I get confused and I can't get into my characters head right.
    If I get an idea for soemthing else, I may briefly jot it down but save it for later.

  8. "The real problem I have with multitasking is that when I have several pots bubbling away, somehow they all end up on the backburner and procrastination becomes way too easy."

    It's like you're in my head! This is so true for me, too. If I have too many things going on, I'll just do a word here a word there and never actually acommplish anything.

    Great post! :)

  9. WIP Wed: :D.

  10. I think over the years, with each child I add, I've gradually grown better at multi-tasking (folding laundry, talking on the phone, and breaking up a fight.) The ability to multi-task carries over in my writing. I've learned to do multiple tasks and grab the time to do them when I can. It's not ideal, but at this stage in my life, it's all I've got!

  11. I'm right there with you! I am a horrible multi-tasker and have the good sense to not even try. As for writing while bouncing a toddler on your knee.... if you can do that, you're Super Woman! ;)

  12. Ah, yes, multitasking. I somehow manage it in small bursts, but I do burn out quickly. So far as writing goes, though, I tend to alternate between projects while focusing on the writing and/or editing of one main project. I have written two novels at once before and they were different enough that I was able to keep them separate, but it's not something I really want to do again. I prefer to have one big project (novel or novella) and to take breaks to write flash fiction or short stories when I start feeling the burnout approach.

    The dangerous time is in between big projects, like right now. Plot bunnies attack me out of nowhere! And I can't pick just one to focus on developing.

    (I've got my WIP Wednesday up over at my blog :) )

  13. Great post! I hear you on all those posts. Multitasking is hard. And woo hoo for wingdings!

  14. Yeah, I can not multi-task, (or flip quickly between tasks) with writing. And this week, I can't do it in real life either! (LOL)

    Great job on this topic, Kate.

  15. I definitely do oen at a time. :) Too hard for me to concentrate any other way.

    I do, however, multitask...sort of. My kids wouldn't agree, and a few meals might have reason to complain, but over all, I can multitask WAY BETTER than my hubby. LOL

  16. I agree with the multi-tasking but not really feeling accomplished bit. It's a hard thing. Sometimes I feel like I've done something if I make dinner and give my kid a bath. Other days I'm not accomplished until I've done this whole list of things. I think it has to do with our mood, emotions, stress level, etc. as well.

  17. Ahhh very good point - we don't do things at the same time, we just switch back and forth. And yes, many times when I try to do that all I end up with is mess and nothing done at all :)

  18. Nice post. I sometimes think I can multitask, but probably I'm not really being as effective as I could be if I take one thing at a time. Oh well, we're supposed to keep learning as we go along, right? Well hey, then I'm right where I should be :)

  19. I consider myself a multitasker, but perhaps, I'm multitasking so much that my focus is stretch too thin.

    Gosh, I don't have any children, so writing and tending to a baby at the same time seems a step above multitasking, it's like being super human or something :)

  20. "The real problem I have with multitasking is that when I have several pots bubbling away, somehow they all end up on the backburner and procrastination becomes way too easy."

    That is EXACTLY what I've done. It's so cool when you can go read all these blog chains and finally see what the heck you are doing wrong.

    Great post!

    :) Terri

  21. :snort: If I tried to write and bounce my toddler on my knee at the same time, he'd just grab my mouse and bang on the keyboard--or just ask for one of his favorite shows or songs. Writing and kids don't mix very well for me.

    Good post!

  22. Oh multi-tasking with a toddler is just plain impossible - unless you have a disney DVD and fruit snacks. I actually just used that little trick to talk to my agent just yesterday. Hee

  23. Trying to write with small kids is so hard. They see Mama or Papa sit down at the computer or with the laptop, and that has to be the moment that they flip their lid.

    What you said procrastination rings true. It's like you have so many directions to go in that picking only one is too hard a choice, and nothing gets accomplished.

  24. I work on my WIp then edit a previously finished work. I know it sort of makes both books WIP"S doesn't it? Oh well, there a logic to it somewhere lol!

  25. I'm impressed by writers who manage to accomplish anything with small children in the house.

    My kids are older and I can barely keep up.

  26. Hey, there's a little gift for you at my blog Have a great weekend! :)

  27. Amen to this post. I have all the same issues. Which is why I finally made a spreadsheet. I guess it's to keep me accountable.

    Awesome post!