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Personal Essay: “On Multitasking”

It’s often said that girls are better than boys at multitasking, there’s even some scientific evidence that points in this direction, though supposedly the results vary depending on the type of task the participants of the test were told to do. The whole thing about multitasking, to be able to do more than one thing has been such an attractive quality to employers for so long that, in my country at least, there’s this cliché saying that people are warned against using in their cover letters, that informs people that they are in fact great at juggling multiple tasks at the same time.

But the fact is, and this has taken me some time to admit to myself, is that I am not all that great at multitasking. And I’m not just talking about the standard, everyday things here, but that is a big enough thing on its own. Whenever I decide to do some housecleaning I can get stuck in one room, distracted by an old pile of magazines or an old notebook of stories. My last move was probably affected quite a lot by how I began to go over old stuff instead of continuing with what I was doing. I work the best and most efficiently if I have a list, with tasks I can tick off one at a time.

This multitasking problem is affecting me in an area that you might not think of. See, I have always advertised myself as a generally creative person and I’m not really kidding there. Over the course of my life I have dabbled in a lot of areas where you can express your creativity. As a child I wrote and composed simple songs, I’ve knitted and sewed, even completing my own Japanese school girl outfit for a cosplay event, I’ve slowly taught myself how to cook and bake, I’ve written and I have dabbled in art of all shapes and sizes. Really, if there is one thing I can see as clear as day when I look back at my life it is the red thread of creative expression.

But how does this relate to your problem with multitasking you ask? Well, the fact is, that all things, with all modes of creative expression there is a growth and development when you do things for long enough. My problem is that I tend to jump between creative endeavors, perhaps too fast at times to get really good and any one thing.

I think the first form of expression that I left by the wayside some time ago is my dress- and costume making ambitions, with piles of fabric left behind unused and unwanted. I made some plush since then, but right now it’s been many years since I last used a needle for something besides sewing in a lost button, fixing a hole or digging out crud from under my computer keyboard keys. There is a small spark inside my head that occasionally suggests I try my hand at cosplay again, but so far it has not come anywhere close to action.

My musical ambitions are probably fairly dead too. You know how I know? A few years back my parents gave me a new keyboard for Christmas and I am embarrassed to say that it didn’t see much use, certainly not as much use as the keyboard I owned when I lived at home as a teenager. Right now my keyboard is packed away up on a cupboard and the only one who touches its keys is my cat, when she climbs up for a good view. I do still sing, but who doesn’t sing (badly) now and then?

That leaves three still active modes of expression for me, all three who still vie for my attentions, to the detriment of my development in any of those three areas: Cooking, art and writing.

It’s true that I write every day now, it clears the mind and if nothing else, it can help me deal with dark thoughts and feelings that might otherwise weigh too heavy on my shoulders. But now and then I compare myself with my friends, to their ambition and dedication to the craft and wonder what I really am doing. I fully intend to try my hand at NaNo again this year, because it’s fun to push yourself sometimes and it is a pretty good distraction when you don’t have much else going on in your life. But then I turn my head away from the screen for a second and see the painting that still sits unfinished less than a foot away from me and feel the shame sneak into my gut. And even worse, the realization that I have not done a nice piece of art in weeks, months even.

Though I am forced to always tinker with cooking, or else I wouldn’t eat every day, the eternal conflict between art and writing is actually starting to bother me (not to mention the sneaking suspicion that if I didn’t have neither art not writing, my cooking skills might be more developed and advanced). I used to produce art rather regularly once upon a time…Once upon a time when I didn’t write every day.

Perhaps you can see my problem clearly now. I think that every person who is creative at the core has a certain pool of creativity inside them and every time they express themselves in some way they dip into that pool. The pool might be larger or smaller, depending on the situation of the person in question; a friend is of the solemn opinion that too much comfort hinders a person’s creativity. But when the pool is emptied, then it’s empty. If I empty my pool writing something, there is nothing left for my mind to use to come up with art.

There are moments when I have wondered if I shouldn’t take a break from writing, just to see if I can get my art muscles working again, because I have seen enough growth in that area to feel that I might become good with time, but the idea of quitting writing altogether is frightening. Would art really be enough to combat the demons in my head?

The only solution I can think of is to try and train myself, expand the pool of creativity enough that I might have some left for art at the end of the day, or maybe even try and develop my multitasking skills some. Because I know for a fact that right now I really can’t stick to just one thing, there are too many attractive creative avenues that I want to stroll down, and to just pick one of them feels dull.

And perhaps, if I can manage some level of multitasking, then maybe I can improve in more than one area. Perhaps growth in one area can help me in another. But right now all of this is wishful thinking, for all I know I’ll just end dropping all those juggling balls of creativity into the dirt.

But, I won’t know unless I try.

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