Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Using Multiple Talents: Freedom or Folly?

(I almost called this post "When Art Mind Attacks!" You'll see why in a minute.)

I struggle with wanting to do All The Things. I have many, many, many, many, many, many, many interests. But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to write about the main two interests at war in my head: art and writing. Or writing and art, depending on the day. I'm going to throw aside such social niceties as humility and modesty and say that I'm good at both. Not OUTSTANDING at either, you understand, but definitely good. With time and practice, maybe I could be really good at one or the other.

The trouble is that they keep stealing time from each other, the brats. How am I supposed to make forward, linear progress when I practice one thing for a while, and then switch to the other thing for a while, and keep going back and forth?

Here's an example. Last weekend, after not making any art at all for I don't know how many months, I came up with the idea to make some art to offer for a prize (which is still available through the end of June 20, 2013, btw!). I made something I liked, and then posted about it. That was my cue to get back to my writing and editing. But NO. I did not do that. Art Mind had awakened, and Art Mind wanted to make more art. So part of the day before yesterday, and nearly all of yesterday, went toward making MORE art, which is nearly done. Because once I get into an art project, that's all I want to do.

The new art will be useful. I was planning to make more for my next round of prize-giving anyway, because WHAT FATES IMPOSE Wants Happy, Satisfied Backers. But at some point I will have to switch back to Writing Mind, not just because of having deadlines, but because I WANT to write. My own goals get in each other's way.

I suspect that I'm not the only person with this problem.

So what do you do when you have competing interests? Here are some ideas.

1. Choose between them. This is the obvious idea for most people. A mental shrug, like they're thinking "What's the big deal? Be a grown-up and pick one and do that." I wish I could. It would be easier, and I would get good at that one thing faster. But whenever I try to just do one or the other, I feel diminished, like I'm wasting part of myself.

2. Let one interest dominate, but do a little bit of the other. This is kind of like picking one, but kind of not. It lets you progress almost as quickly in the dominant interest, while giving you just enough of the other to make you happy.

3. Equal time. Take your free time, split it in half, and schedule in both interests in equal amounts. This seems reasonable and logical, but it will probably slow your development in each. You can do this in a number of ways. Time for both interests every day, or blocks when you do one for a month and then switch. Any way you divide up your time will have pros and cons.
I have not actually settled on a method to handle this, myself, but it's pretty clear that I'm not choosing just one.

One positive thing that I've discovered over time is that I do continue to get better at both writing and art even as I switch back and forth. It's more holistic than linear, but I end up feeling like ME, developing both Writing Mind and Art Mind instead of dismissing part of who I am.

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