Sunday, September 25, 2016
When my kids were little, I honed my multi-tasking skills getting a family of five dressed, fed, and out the door every morning. Most days, there were no major disasters, and somehow I lulled myself into the belief that not only was I able to multi-task, I was quite good at it. I could watch my children's soccer games and grade my students' homework. I could pay the bills and fold the laundry in the course of one television show, never losing the plot line. Weekly menus were planned and grocery lists written during staff meetings. Cookies for the bake sale scented the house as I prepped for the next day's classes. You get the idea. I flatter myself that I can still accomplish more in one day than some people will in an entire week, and I have two published novels and a slew of short stories to prove it. Ah, but therein lies the rub.
This writing stuff can play havoc with multi-tasking. I now work from home and, perhaps because of that, doing more than one thing at a time poses an unexpected hazard. Yes, I'm fine developing characters and story arcs while scrubbing the floor, weeding the garden, or walking the dog. But I have learned I should never, ever, under any circumstances attempt to cook while I'm at my computer writing. The thing is, when I am into a story the way I need to be to understand my characters and what is happening to them, I cross a threshold. That threshold into Fictionland doesn't allow casual backward glances at reality to check what's happening in the kitchen. You're either in the story, or you're not, and crossing that threshold exacts a toll. It requires suspension of all else, including time. Equally tough is crossing back over the threshold to the real world. Deep in a story, sometimes only extreme external forces can pull me back. Like the smell of a dozen eggs boiled so hard the water in the pan evaporated. Anyone up for Green Eggs and Ham?