Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Multi-tasking vs. Obsesssing

I’ve never been that good at multi-tasking, which is bad news for me as a mom. I mean sure, I can fold laundry while watching TV. I can carry things up the stairs as I go, a skill which seems to elude the other family members. I can talk on the phone while cleaning up my “craft” room (or as I sometimes like to call it, “crap” room.) But only with my sister, because I don’t know anyone else who will tolerate a hour-long conversation that is interspersed with long pauses, and random comments, such as, “yeah, right, like I’m ever going to sew that thing,” and “when the hell did I buy this?” and “That’s where the birthday party decorations are.”

So other than those examples, I’m terrible at multi-tasking. This is mostly because I HATE it. If I could live in an ideal world, I would never, ever have to do anything remotely resembling multi-tasking. I’ve been this way for a long time. In school, I would actually do homework all at once, IN ADVANCE, just so I wouldn’t have to ruin yet another day with homework. Yes, I’ll admit it--what I’d rather do, falls dangerously close to the level of “obsessing.”

So last week, I spend several days obsessively cleaning in the kitchen, scrubbed the hell out the oven door (inside and out), picked dried-up bits out of the filter with a toothpick (It’s an downdraft so food splatters can really gunk up that filter and for some reason, dish soap has no effect on baked on egg residue). Vacuumed under the oven, scrubbed the oven racks, toothbrushed and dustbusted the crumbs in the crack between the oven and counter. And that was pretty much all I did that day, because despite my obsession, as a mom, I was forced against my will into multi-tasking anyway, even though I would have preferred to move on to scrubbing the baseboards (I couldn’t help noticing their disgusting state while I was on the floor vacuuming under the oven).

Instead of baseboards, I had to pick up a child from school, make dinner, tend to a three-year-old who was sing-songing “I did a poo-poo on the pot-ty and I’m do-one” (yes, done is a two syllable word). I also very meanly responded to all requests to “Play with me Mommy,” by suggesting that “Clean the Oven,” was the fun game of the day, which actually worked for a while. But the next day, when I suggested “wash cabinets and walls” as the day’s play, I got a little more push-back.

I will be honest, because I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea and think that I spend my life obsessively cleaning. (My hubby: "I wish you would"). No, no, that is just an example. I also get the same way about my leisure activities, which is why, this week, during two snow days with kids home from school, I spent my days obsessively attached to YouTube and I-tunes, updating my I-pod and creating a new mix CD for the car. Obsession may also explain why I’ve been listening to my old mix CD since OCTOBER. Yeah, I’m due for a new music obsession.

I also blame my social ineptness on my inability to multi-task. Either I remember what I want to say, or I listen to other people. Can’t seem to do both. Then I end up bluntly demanding, “When are those pizzas coming?” when I see the mom I ordered them from for her kids’ school fundraiser. I apologize for not saying hello, but seriously, if I had, I’d probably forget to ask about the pizzas. I’m amazed that I even managed that much.

Recent research seems to debunk the myth of multitasking, saying that it makes people less efficient. Well, duh. I mean just look at how little laundry gets folded, if Grey’s Anatomy takes a break from Meredith and Christina whining, and focuses instead on one of the McHotties.

Unfortunately, mommyhood doesn’t ascribe to the latest research, so my children still expect to be fed, even if I’d rather keep organizing the pantry, nor can they harness their desire for “playing” and confine it to a specific “play day”. So I’m stuck, multi-tasking, inefficiently, reluctantly, and often badly.

Unfinished Business

I''ve been avoiding writing here, because all I really want to do is blab about how I finally finished the fan fiction story I was working on.  And really, who cares?  What bigger waste of my time could I have engaged in than writing a story that is a total ripoff of another author's characters and plot, retold from a different perspective?  True, I added my own characters, with a little backstory of their own, but all in all, its just for fun.

However, even "fun" can bring its own type of pressure.  Like the fact that even though I'd sit down at 9 pm planning to write for an hour, hour and a half tops, I would find myself at Midnight or 1 pm, still going.  And despite the fun factor that caused me to lose track of time, I was getting a little tired of my story, seeing as how I had only gone over it my head a few thousand times.  I just wanted to be finished with the thing so I could stop feeling compelled to work on it.

I had to take a short break, to get the family and myself through some nasty cold germs, and then another break to prep a 6 year old birthday party and make a Castle Cake.  Afterwards, I told my husband one night, "I'm going upstairs to work on my story.  I have to finish it tonight."

"Why?" he asks, "It's not like you're getting paid for it." 

So I don't remember what I responded (that's my story and I'm stickin' to it), but the fact that I wasn't getting paid for it was precisely the reason I wanted to get it over with.  I have in computer files, thumb drives, CDs, diskettes and notebooks, plenty of "Unfinished" writing.  Even the NaNoWriMo novel that I successfully completed as far as "word count" went, was (and is) still unfinished.  It's not like I'm getting paid for any of it, but at least I wanted to enjoy the feeling of something being done, rather than abandoned, or avoided until I forgot whatever inspired me initially.

So in addition to finally finished something I wrote, I learned a few other things through the process.  First and foremost is that, as fun as NaNoWriMo writing 50,000 words in a month was, I think my writing does better without the pressure to be verbose.  I started my fan-fic as a short exercise, at 7000 words had covered the basics of the story, and then as I attempted to make it "reader-worthy", it began to grow.  Finished off in 3 months with 46,000 words.  If it were not a fan-fic, I would happily go back later and "grow it" a little more, but I'm ready to move on to other adventures.

Another thing I enjoyed about writing the fan-fiction was being aware of my audience, and trying to write in a way that would please people other than myself.  That was something I hadn't even considered with my first novel and has given me some serious food for thought about how I might now go back and finish it off better.