I met Julianne Harvey about a year and a half ago when she offered a writing class at a local library. It was a chance to get together with other writers and talk about writing, at a time when my writing was again in a slump because I was working full-time at Starbucks. Since then, I’ve watched her career grow as she teaches more classes and starts more writing projects. Here, Julianne answers my question about how she manages her multi-tasking writing style.
I’ve come to accept that I’m a bit of a hyperactive writer. I used to listen to other writers talk about beginning and then finishing a single project at a time, and refusing to entertain any new ideas so they wouldn’t be distracted. I would usually feel bad about myself when I ended up in one of these conversations.
One day I was cleaning my house in my usual haphazard manner, abandoning the toy clean-up in my family room to focus on my dishes, and then leaving that to start cleaning my bathroom, when I realized something.
It’s okay to multi-task, if it suits your personality better.
Ever since that lightning bolt moment, I’ve stopped cowering into my dark personal corner when I hear other writers say what works for them. I’ve learned to embrace what my scattered focus and multi-tasking writing style does for me. It keeps me busy and entertained. It means I am never bored. It most definitely takes me longer to finish a project than those with a single-minded focus, but as one project finishes, I have others in various states of completion, so I’m not starting from scratch each time.
We all work differently. It’s wonderfully freeing to realize that there is no one right way to do anything. As I grow into a deeper understanding of who I am and how I function, it’s fabulous to accept my hyperactive methods and not expect myself to conform to some non-existent standard of how a writer should write.
I get a bit squirrelly when I only have one or two items on my to-do list. I like to have a lot of items and feel that sense of satisfaction when I cross them off my list.
The trick is to have reasonable goals. Too many for one day and I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Too few and I get lazy and have motivation problems. Finding that sweet spot in the middle is only achieved through a lot of trial and error. Mistakes are made, and then avoided in the future. I like to think that I am getting marginally better every day at giving myself the right amount of writing tasks.
Slowly, I progress in my memoir, and my novel, while preparing to self publish my first children’s book this fall. I blog every day, and freelance a few articles and short stories, and stay active in social media to build my platform. I try to re-write my screenplay in the faint hope that it will attract an agent someday, and I’ll finally achieve my dream of sitting on a film set watching my words come to life.
All of these things take time, and with a five-year-old and an-eight-year-old, I don’t always have the kind of time I want for writing, even with my multi-tasking writing style. I’m learning that the ideas will keep until later, but my kids won’t stay at these ages. I don’t want to miss out on this time with them.
And so, like every person, I juggle multiple things on the go. There are days I’m aware I’m doing too much and not well at anything, and then other days when the balance is better and I go to sleep feeling that all is right in my world. I’m trying to build a writing career that will last, which takes careful planning and strategy.
I’ve forced myself to stop looking to my left and to my right to see how I compare to other writers. We are all on different paths, and there is no one right path. For now, I’m grateful that I have more ideas than time, and every day is another chance to embrace my multi-tasking writing style, and live and write to the best of my ability.
Julianne Harvey blogs regularly about personal growth, motherhood and the big questions of life. She’s also written an eBook, Authentic = Happy: A Guide to Dismantling Your Disguise, about being true to yourself and living authentically. You can keep up with her writing updates on Facebook or get her writing tips on Twitter. Read my Writers-on-Wednesday interview with Julianne to find out more about what inspires her to write.
Great post. I resonate with all you’ve said here!
A few years ago, N. J. Lindquist told me of a great book, Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It’s a wonderful resource for those of us who find ourselves cleaning the bathroom in our underwear. 🙂
Accidental Poet – I laughed out loud, because your description is so perfect, and I can seriously relate to it!
Diane – it is definitely good to know we are not alone in this multi-tasking style. We can really get a lot done at once provided we allow ourselves to have a divided focus and be okay with that!
Thanks for reading and for your comments, and thanks to KBW for asking me to guest post!
I thought I was the only one who went from one project to another without finishing any one of them at one “sitting”. My focus is easily distracted. But I do manage, eventually, to get things done. Like the 8 books I was reading a while ago. I have finished all of them and am working on a few more now. I’m glad I’m not alone in this mode of life. It’s good to know I am in good company! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Julianne.
Tracy – I agree, totally. Student, mom, writer; there’s always lots to do! I’ve also come to realize that what works for me may not work for someone else, and I have to find what works for me rather than trying to do what it seems like everyone else (or the “expert”) is doing.
Julianne – confidence is hard to come by, as a mom and as a writer. Too often we second-guess ourselves. It’s helpful to hear from other writers like you who are honest about the process of coming to trust yourself.
Accidental Poet – way too funny. 🙂
reminds me of the day my husband came home to find me standing in the kitchen, at the ironing board, writing in a journal, wearing only my underwear. “What are you doing???” he wanted to know.
I blinked at him. “Cleaning the bathroom. Isn’t that obvious?”
Hi Tracy – thanks so much for reading and for your comment! I always think I’ll remember that I don’t have to ask permission or get approval to do things my own way, but then I often get caught up in what others are doing and I have to remind myself.
Great point that we likely already know the answers we seek, provided we can access the courage to move ahead with confidence.
Multi-tasking is a given for many of us – especially women – in this modern era. However, what I really appreciated was the ‘lightning blot’ moment she had when she realized it was okay to do things her way, not someone else’s way. We are always looking for advice on how to ‘do it better’ when, in fact, we probably know what works best for us ourselves.