I’m no big fan of multitasking.
Sure, I can breathe AND remain upright AND look at Lolcats simultaneously, but juggling bananas while flicking pound coins into tigers’ mouths is mercurial ambidexterity too far for this cack-handed writer, let me tell you.
What interests me right now are the shifts in thought and deed (same thing, actually, but I love a good shorthand cliché) that must necessarily take place as we move from one activity to another.
One minute, you’re gardening; the next, you’re cooking dinner — till finally, you’re on your hands and knees cleaning baby sick from the living room carpet or shopping online for novelty leather motorcycle pantees.
The point is, there are some activities that lend themselves to easy transitions while others remain problematically clunky.
Sometimes this is simply the result of incompatible physiological states being bundled together in too short a time frame, as anyone who has tried to connect with their yogic wherewithal after running a marathon will testify. Riding a horse while drunk is another clincher. Ditto allowing a drunk horse to ride you as you perform brain surgery on an unanaesthetised epileptic chimp.
Other times, a change of clothes, equipment or surroundings is required to make the transition, and any self-respecting bunjee jumping naturist will know the deal with this one.
What’s interesting for writers is that very often the biggest leaps take place (and are necessary) between one version of sitting-at-a-desk-thinking-and-writing-and-looking-out-of-the-window and another.
There’s no actual leap here, as might be the case if you went from (hot, sweaty) NAKED GO-GO DANCING ON THE BEACH to (calming) GURUCRAFT ATOP MONT BLANC (AVEC SNORKELS).
The scenario for most forms of writing is the same: chair, desk, pen & paper / gadget, window.
The physiological state is the same too: broadly calm, sitting posture, no stress on heart or breathing, pyjamas — and so on.
And yet, somehow, the shift from NOVEL to POEM, REPORT to DISSERTATION, TRADING CARD FLAVOUR TEXT to BLOG ARTICLE rarely happens in the kind of instant you might expect would be the case for transitions from one form of writing to another (for me, at least — you might be a flickermercurial genius).
What interests me right now isn’t so much the brute fact that these so-called “changes of mind” or “changes of mindset” should exist (and take odd amount of time they take) but what goes on in these transition states.
Assuming you made an immediate change from NOVEL to POEM, then what would happen?
You’d stop thinking all your NOVEL thoughts — all of them — and start thinking all your POEM thoughts — all of them — in an ON/OFF electric switch kind of way.
For this to happen, these thoughts would need to be concrete, known.
Bird. Oiseau. Bird. Oiseau.
When we KNOW things, we can switch quickly between them.
And maybe this is the deal: the fuzziness of creativity is hardly concrete.
Who knows what constitutes a NOVEL?
Same goes for POEM or HALF WRITTEN ARTICLE ABOUT CHEESE.
Even the experts don’t know everything about their chosen specialities, and there may not even BE an “everything” to know. Novels, by definition, don’t actually exist until they’re written, after all.
Whichever way you think of it, there’s clearly more to juggle in the moment here than mere versions of birds.
And maybe that’s a good thing for creativity in general.
Because Bird Oiseau Bird Oiseau simply demonstrates a minimal grasp of French.
It’s a statement of fact, with little intertwixting of shibboleths — a more easily leapable chasm than the maw of a gulf between my dystopian novel about meerkat vampires on a Death Star (as a vehicle for a contemporary take on the philosophy of William James) and my sonnet about a belly dancer with floppy boobs who slims down to a size 10 after doing battle with her mirror reflection and love for Jamie Oliver’s new hairdo.
When our oiseaux bulge and swell thus, any kind of intertwixting could well strike us as an inconvenience.
Grrr! Go away Fluffy da Meerkat Gunner, with your talk of free will in an inherently fascist universe! I badly need a word to rhyme with GAZONGAS! Six syllables!
Or, you might end up beached in mid-twixty, doomed to write stuff like this:
Fluffy da Meerkat Gunner peered down his boomer lens at the Imperium’s latest monstrosity. Its hulking form blotted out the stars like a giant titty, mighty cannons poking from its armoured carapace with the pertness of nipples teased erect by a minimally sexy Southern plonker.”
when you dance, you entrance, my one true love,
as Vader, hypnotic’lly dangerous
BUT, if you can bear to wait till things settle down, and actively pursue this moment of hinny twixt hinnies, viewing it as a momentary “one thing” in its own right, then notions of any kind of multitasking vanish.
The singularity of intertwixtyness lives!
Let there be Hinny2volition!
It’s just a thought — as is NOVEL and POEM and DISSERTATION ON NOVELTY MOTORBIKE PANTEES — but we so often miss/dismiss it whenever we journey through the hinny hinterland between other, seemingly more important, concerns.
(For more equine-themed writing advice, go here)