I don’t know how I’ve managed to write anything, ever. Without deadlines I’d never finish anything, although I generally manage deadlines that I’ve promised to meet. Many a story hasn’t made it in time to meet the deadline in one or another Call for Submissions where I’ve made no commitment. Sometimes another chance will come along, and I can manage to finish an abandoned story in time, although by then it’s morphed into a somewhat different story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But I can’t multi-task when it comes to writing. If I’m supposed to be writing one thing but get stuck, for one reason or another, I can’t work on any other writing project. I procrastinate and avoid, and think longingly of other things I want to write, and Calls for Submission that sound tempting, but I don’t let myself turn to another project while a current one is hovering gloomily over my head, which all too often means that little or nothing gets done.
I keep plenty of other kinds of metaphorical plates spinning in the air, though somewhat wobbling at times. Just now I’m handling selling my father’s house (where I grew up) now that he’s in a long term care facility, and dang, that kind of thing is complicated, what with realtors and lawyer-speak and town restrictions and clearing out sixty years of a family's accumulations. And I visit my dad almost every day, taking him to doctor appointments, and lunch twice a week, while also caring for another family member with severe effects of Lyme Disease. And I manage to keep my traditional vegetable garden going, so far, in spite of a crazy deer who seems to think tomato plants are tasty. Housekeeping, not so much, but I get by. Anyway, I can multi-task when necessary, when there’s no avoiding it and other people are affected.
But I can’t work on more than one writing project at a time. I don’t think it’s a matter of not being able to think about multiple things more or less at once, but of recognizing my tendency for procrastination and trying not to put off one thing and turn to another. That, of course, is totally unproductive, since nothing gets done, and I might at least be managing partial stories that could be finished up when another chance comes along. Maybe I’m punishing myself for getting stuck in a major project like my first novel (which is, however, essentially done now, having taken as long as I used to take to write ten or so short stories.)
I guess I used to be more prolific, but even then I couldn’t manage to have more than one story in progress at a time. And I haven’t managed to follow the prime advice for writers, which is to write every day, no matter what, no matter how stuck you may be, or how blank your mind feels. And…well, okay, no matter how distracted you get by following Facebook and/or Twitter and all the ways that news both fake and factual and generally depressing batters at your consciousness.
But look, right here, in spite of having nothing to say, I’m finishing a piece of writing that I’ve committed to doing, and on time. I’ll take my sense of accomplishment where I can get it. And maybe now I’ll go spend an hour on something else I should be doing, like revising a never-quite-finished story I want to include in a collection of my work so that there’ll be at least one piece that hasn’t been previously published. Unfinished stories do come in handy, after all, although this particular one may be unfinished for good reason, and stuck beyond hope amid the brambles of distraction and procrastinative tendencies of my mind.