Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blog Chain: Does Multitasking Make Your Head Explode?

Today is the first installment of something a little different on this blog: A Blog Chain entry! Some fabulous writers do this on a monthly basis, answering a single question and then creating a chain of awesomeness for their readers to follow. I've been reading The Chain for a while, and have always enjoyed hearing the different writer's perspectives.

The question for this chain was posed by the fabulous Terri Rainer (http://terrirainer.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-chain-blatherskite.html) is:

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

Before me, answering this question was Cole Gibson (http://colegibsen.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-chain-post-multitasking.html), and after me will be Kate Quinn (http://katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com/).

I thought about this topic over the past week, and realized a few key things about myself.

1) I have the potential to be the biggest procrastinator on the planet, and
2) I have to keep myself on a short leash to get anything done. Ever.

I've always like to think of myself as an awesome multi-tasker, and I do a great job of juggling tasks at work or menial tasks at home. I can juggle chores in a way where I become a one-woman assembly line--the height of efficiency.

However, when it comes to my writing, if I try to focus on more than one big project, I fall apart.

What the heck??

When I'm working on editing LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, it's all I can focus on. It was only when I thought I was finished with it, that I began my next novel, HOLLOW LAND. Now that I'm back tweaking LoTE, the second novel is sitting in the corner patiently awaiting its turn.

Why is this? Why can't I be like other writers who have 3 or 4 manuscripts going at once, or are pumping out short stories while working on their novels?

I think I've finally figured it out, and there are a few reasons (man, today I am loving the lists!):

1) If I have too many projects, I will do them all poorly, instead of one thing well
2) If I have too many projects, all of them will take forever to complete, and I won't get anything accomplished
3) If I have too many projects, if I make a mistake in one, chances are I'll make it in all of them.

One of the biggest things I've discovered from writing and rewriting my first novel is that I am able to grow as a writer. I've made a lot of mistakes throughout this process, but instead of jumping into other projects and making the same mistakes in four novels, I chose to stick with this one, and rewrite until I learned the lessons I needed to become better. I would deeeeply regret it if I'd been writing the sequel and working on other stories when I discovered the issues with my first novel. I'd rather take it slow with one project, learn what I need to learn, and then save myself from making those mistakes on my next novel.

Then I get to make all new mistakes and learn some more. YAY!

I also know that if I have too many things going on, I won't have the focus and drive I need to complete them. I'm not a fast writer, I'm a thorough writer, so writing one thing at a time helps me get the job done.

It's funny to me that even though I'm a "typical artistic type" in many ways (I'm messy at home), I'm actually very mythodical when it comes to my art. This just works for me, even though others go at it completely differently and achieve great success.

How do you guys work?

Are you able to multitask projects and complete them?

If so, tell me how ;)! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Also, don't forget to tune into Kate tomorrow for her answer!


Michelle McLean said...

Ahh, great points, especially number 3 :) This is also why, even though I may work on non-fiction or picture books or research at the same time I'm working on a novel, I don't work on more than one novel at a time. Because you are sooo right - it would be horrible to discover a major mistake or something and have to go through multiple books to correct it :)

Great first post and welcome to the chain!!

B.J. Anderson said...

I think your second list really says it all, and I feel much the same way. And I, too, have to find ways to keep myself from procrastinating. :D Great post!

Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks, guys! :D

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oooh, I think that is so interesting about not wanting to make the same mistakes twice, or more, by working on several projects at one time. I have never thought of that before, but it is a great point!

Abby said...

Despite working in several receptionist positions (and being a mother of three kids under three years old at one point) where multi-tasking is absolutely necessary, I can only work on one major writing project at a time.

I agree about not making the same mistakes on multiple manuscripts. I've done SO much rewriting on my first, if I had to do that on others, for the same reasons, I might just get overwhelmed and give up.

But I think the main reason I can only focus on one project at a time is because I get so immersed in my imaginary world that it's hard for me to shift gears and work on something else. Even writing blog posts is hard when I'm really in that writing groove.

christine said...

I am with you guys...I havr rewritten my first novel SO MANY TIMES!!! I would hate to go through that again. Each book I write is much better than the last...

Great post, and welcome!

Cole Gibsen said...

I'm the opposite. I have so many voices in my head I have to heed the one that is screaming the loudest. (It's amazing I'm not institutionalized, right?) LOL

ElanaJ said...

I like the part where you said that if you work on more than one project, you make the same mistakes in both. That's something that's forced me to slow down and really focus on one thing.

Rebecca Knight said...

Kate--Thanks! After the pain in the arse this revising process has been, I can't imagine doing it for several projects without some weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Abby--I think you're my writing doppleganger :).

Christine--it's so good to know I'm not alone! It's wonderful to see how far you've come, even on one book.

Cole--that is too funny! Isn't it amazing how different we can be while all working on the same thing?

Elana--very cool! I'm the same way. I got too excited, and had to slow my roll to fix what I started with.

TerriRainer said...

"I'd rather take it slow with one project, learn what I need to learn, and then save myself from making those mistakes on my next novel."

That is BRILLIANT (and just what I needed to hear)!

GREAT post.

:) Terri

Sandra said...

Welcome to the Blog Chain! You listed some very good reasons for focusing on one project at the time. It's interesting how we tend to make the same mistake over and over, isn't it? We can't even multi-task in that area!

Sarah Bromley said...

Some excellent points. I like what you say about focusing on one project and doing it well.

I've noticed that, when working on multiple WIPs, I have to be careful not to write them in the same voice. Don't want all my work to read the same way, which is a fear of mine.

Kat Harris said...

I'm not a fast writer, I'm a thorough writer, so writing one thing at a time helps me get the job done.

This is what's important. Readers want a story that's done well, not one that's done quickly.

From one procrastinator to another, awesome post!

Annie Louden said...

I would like to challenge you to see who is the biggest procrastinator on the planet.

I hear you on the "if too many things are happening at once, it'll take forever" front. I need to be on a short leash, too!