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On Creative Multitasking and Procrastination

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

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I'm stuck. Remember that breakthrough I had in my story in July? Turns out it wasn't much of a breakthrough after all. It got me ahead in the project, sure. I've written a few more scenes—scenes I thought would be the turning point of the story. But still, my MC blatantly refuses to see that he needs to deal with his emotions. Men.

Now, unrelatedly (maybe), I have this new idea. It's a shining, fun idea, that would require quite a bit of research before I can start writing, but I have a plot. I know how the story will unfold, more or less. There are lots of themes in this idea, and symbols, and possibly a little bit of magic. I'm excited about it.


And this is where I face a dilemma. I've already talked about this dilemma of pushing through or following your heart. Do you perspire through the project you're stuck on because you're resisting it on some level and you just need to force yourself to finish, like when you're running long distances? Or do you leave it be for a while, see if you can figure it out while you're away from it? I saw an excellent TED talk this week in which Tim Harford was talking about slow multitasking. What he's saying is that sometimes you need to work on a different project for a while, especially if you're stuck on one project and your brain needs a break from it to simmer. One of the people in my writers' group said it's like an artist's studio, with several works happening at the same time, and sometimes you just need to turn the canvas to face the wall and take a break from it.


But, switching projects feels like cheating. It feels like a distraction. It feels like failing. It feels like checking your phone repeatedly for social media updates rather than study or work.


It's entirely possible that this project I'm working on is going to fail. It's not the first time I'm stuck on it. And, sometimes, what looks like a great idea at first turns out to be not so great after you hashed it out. Sometimes you have to quit a project.


I'm not ready to quit this project just yet. I don't think the idea is a bad one, but maybe I'm not ready to write it yet. Maybe I need to write other things first. Or maybe I'm just easily distracted. But I talked last night with my incredible partner, and I think I'm ready to take a break from this project. To put it aside for a while. Maybe focus on some short stories, maybe focus on editing my first book, maybe work on this new idea, maybe work on something else entirely.

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