By Anita Garner
The younger me thought I could do a bunch of things at once. This is not a great time to find out I’m no longer a good multi-tasker, if I ever was. I’m working or thinking about working or talking about working on several projects at once. My reward used to be seeing the check marks on a to do list. Today I am the owner of a single-task mind and a check mark isn’t so exciting.
I’ve started a new book, need to revise (again) a book I’ve already finished, and working on a play which has been seen onstage, but the director and I both know it needs fixing.
I’ve been using the following reward system: Write a scene. Brew a fresh pot of coffee. Work on the outline for the new book. Eat a candy bar. Open original manuscript file on the previous book and stare at it. Cheese and crackers. Or pie. No matter how numerous and how caloric the rewards, the work’s still there. Carrot, meet stick.
Eventually my coffee and sweets and cheese system will either produce something good and relatable and shiny or else I’ll be the roundest little writer in all the land.
*Sheep and carrot above from artist Gina Taylor, Cambridge, UK. Here’s where to find more of her work. Thanks, Gina, for letting your chubby sheep visit here. If I don’t change my reward system soon, she may become my self-portrait.
In this abbreviated exchange of emails, one generation of multi-taskers laments and the next generation has the last word.
I emailed my friend, Sueann and my daughter, Cathleen, to brag about a fleeting spurt of energy. Most of our group emails have to do with handicapping Dancing With The Stars or So You Think You Can Dance, and since neither show is on right now (sigh) we’re back to discussing real life.
Sueann and I go way back to the days when each of us raised kids and ran a company and volunteered many hours and were sometimes married and sometimes not. We were multi-tasking dynamos. Cath belongs to a more Zen school of thought.
Here’s my email to Sueann and Cath:
I am pleased to announce that I may be getting my multi-tasking mojo back. Proof positive is the fact that I’m making oatmeal/raisin/walnut cookies at this moment, while scanning the newspaper, while jumping up to add paragraphs to a short story in progress, while replying to emails. Oh yes I am. I had almost forgotten how to multi-task, but it’s working for me today. I will probably give myself a headache, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
Sueann: I am so proud of you. I lost my multi-tasking mojo a few months ago and I’m not concerned about where it went. I’ve decided that it just could be overrated.
Mine: Oh puh-leeze. Today is a freak occurrence. I didn’t seek it out. It just snuck up on me. I agree with you. It’s overrated. I look back at us in the 80’s and wonder, what were we thinking?
Sueann: Okay then, a sneak attack is acceptable. Don’t want you traveling to the dark side. I’m actually eating almonds as I type this. Does that count?
Cath: Can’t talk. Skiing.
Ó Anita Garner 2009