Monthly Archives: September 2015

Single Tasking

 If your life is like most people’s these days, you are doing several things at once. We make lists and try to squeeze in one more thing before we are out the door, or off to bed.  And if you aren’t doing several things, you are worrying about what you aren’t doing right now.   
I’m tired. I’m sick of doing three things at once and only getting to really pay attention to a third of any of it. Some of this comes with kids, the little people need your attention, after all. Some of it is, well, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s a culture shift that means you are available 24/7, to everyone. Or perhaps it’s all the information we have all the time. I’m not sure. 

What I have noticed is that I’m enjoying less of what I do, and simultaneously wanting to do less. I find I’ve eaten a meal so fast I can’t really remember if it was good. I watch a tv show and I can’t recall it the next morning. Books I’ve read recently have flown out of my head as fast as I read them. Doing things, even fun things, feels like a chore. And I don’t need more of those, thanks. 

After the kids’ bed time, I usually have a couple of hours to myself, before I collapse in a pile of sleepy me, to do things that require a bit more focus. This is when I write, draw, paint, knit, etc. It is also my free time to read, watch tv shows or movies, or listen to music. I had been stacking things up to do. I’d read and knit. Or draw and watch tv. Write and check my phone eleventy billion times. 

Nightly free time was starting to feel like a task on my to-do list, rather than some down time to just be me. And I discovered that I was putting it off. I’d sit and play mindless games on my phone and suddenly it would be bed time, and nothing would have been done. Then I’d be mad at myself for wasting time. 

It was not working. In the last couple weeks I’ve been stopping and really thinking about what I want to do each night. Then, I do just the one thing. A single focused task. When I’m at a stopping point, I don’t look for more to do, I go to sleep. 

It’s starting to be fun again. I’m still getting things accomplished, but I don’t feel overwhelmed as often. I am getting more rest, and I’m able to relax and get into whatever I’m doing. It’s easier all around. 

I’m trying to do this during the day as well. I want to show the kids that doing just one thing is okay. It’s alright to just watch a movie. Or just sit and read a book. Or have a conversation. It’s a challenge some days. There is a lot that wants my attention each day. 

Are you a multitasker? Or do you like to do one thing at a time?

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Juvenile

 Self-perception is a tricky thing for artists in any genre.  It can be too easy to think of yourself as better than you are, or worse than you are.  Either way lies a pit of expectation.

I find that I think of my work as juvenile. It always appears to me to lack whatever it is that makes art or writing seem adult. I’m not sure if it is depth, or experience, or…? When I am drawing, my art often seems too clean, too bright, too sharp.  Like a child’s marker drawing.

My writing, well, I struggle to get any depth to it. To move beyond interesting descriptions into something that makes people want to read. My writing often reads like a high schooler writing in their diary, or a laundry list.

I am unsure if either of these perceptions are accurate – as I have  no audience to poll – but they stop me from creating a fair amount. Because I know that whatever I put out is going to be lacking in some undefinable way that I can’t fix.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. Grownup quality work. How to create something adult, interesting, compelling.  How the authors I read get to the point where they can make something engaging. How artists add enough of themselves into a piece to make it more than a doodle.

Is it that these artists know themselves well enough that they can share bits of themselves in their work? Is it practice or training? Talent or learned skill? How do you get from high school creative writing class to a ripping good read?

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My short story is still out for one magazine, having been rejected (such a harsh term, but that’s what it is – though some publishers couch it as “declined”) for the other two.  No feedback beyond, “We’ll pass, thanks.” I wasn’t expecting a lot of feedback, but something beyond a form email would have been nice. And much like the “A fat envelope means you’ve been accepted to college” wisdom, there is a idea that if your story is rejected, but you get feedback, it’s good.  If you get a form letter, it’s not. I doubt it has a ton of truth to it – but it is still a thing you hear.

I won’t lie.  It’s discouraging.

I listened to the Writing Excuses podcast a lot last week.  If you are a writer, or interested, it is a fun listen.  Short (15 minutes or so), and they have book recommendations and writing “assignments” each week.  There is some in-depth discussion of technique and process as well.

The episode that stuck with me was about writing for fun.  Or rather, having fun writing. I’m not having much fun lately, and it has been a struggle to even do any at all. I’m getting bogged down in the “what comes next” bits, rather than enjoying creating a story. I’m having a hard time sinking into a world for 10-15 minutes before someone hollers for something or I need to break up a fight between the girls. I haven’t been protecting my writing time each day.  And thus, it has turned into a chore, and worse, a chore I’m failing to do properly.  Like doing the dishes but breaking a plate every time you load the dishwasher.

Drawing and painting has hit a point where I am improving, but still can’t quite get the picture in my head onto paper. Everything is just missing…something.  But I don’t know what exactly, so I can’t fix it.

I’m frustrated. And I’m stuck.

What do you do when you feel stuck? How do you get moving again?