Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Just between you and me: multi-tasking gets harder with age

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There was a time when I could work out on one of those fancy NordicTrack ellipticals or other exercise equipment, listen to a CD on my walkman (sure, I’m old; never owned an iPod), interview a fellow exerciser, and take notes for the interview profile practically all at the same time.

These days, if the cat’s rummaging around her toy box near my recliner while I’m typing a post, I shush her and take a minute to get back my focus. If the cat makes noise, there’s a sudden wind gust, and the phone rings, well. That’s almost too much input for me to handle all at once.

Getting old, I guess. I “cut my teeth” writing and editing in the newsroom of a daily newspaper and learned I had to multi-task (we didn’t call it that; the process hadn’t yet been named) or I’d soon be missing deadlines. Miss enough deadlines working at a newspaper or other high-stress operation and you’ll soon be looking for work. With a wife and two small kids, I couldn’t afford to be job hunting, so I quickly developed the ability to work under pressure in the midst of chaos. Not always in the midst of chaos, but often.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten mentally soft. Or old. Or both.

Moral of the story: If you’re serious about a writing and/or editing career, learn to focus on the task at hand, but be aware of what’s happening around you and prepared to multi-task. Or find a different career path.
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