Multi-Writing

Everyone multi-tasks nowadays, but many of us do it specifically with writing, aka multi-writing.

Multi-writing and multi-creating have been my experience this past intense month. October has been full of new events and landmarks as I transition:

  • Transfer from Toronto to my new community in Boston, MA
  • Promoting my new releases, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed and Saints Alive: the Gospel Witnessed here in Boston with a lecture and book-signing with Sr. Mary Lea at our Pauline Books & Media Center in Dedham
  • New apostolate: from writing books (or half-books) mostly solo, to collaboratively working with the development of new video and digital projects
  • Putting together the Discover Hope newsletter for the first time last week—you can read my reflection, Love Answers Prayers, here.
  • My author website is partially up!
  • Revision for my new book on the Eucharist is complete! This revision has haunted me for several months as I couldn’t see clearly what I needed to do
A beautiful image of transition!

A beautiful image of transition!

All of these events have required different forms of creativity and focus. Now, as I go into November and my transition continues, it’s looking just as exciting and intense:

  • November is “Saints Month,” so I’ll help to promote my newly-released books, Saints Alive! via social media every day. As I’m still learning twitter, just starting to figure out what I can do with  my author page on Facebook, and naturally prefer long-form writing to short-form, this will be quite the challenge.
  • My upcoming book-signing for See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: 52 Meditations to Grow in Self-Esteem at our Dedham Pauline Book & Media Center. (Although the book has been out four years, I never had a chance to share my workshop here.)
  • Author website—put up all those free resources I’ve developed!
  • Proofread Eucharist manuscript before turning in to editor—a tedious but much-needed task
  • Brainstorming/developing new scripts for our Video Studio—we have some exciting ideas that we’ve talked about that I can’t wait to start brainstorming.
  • Persevering daily with creative writing routine for NaNoWriMo children’s novel

And there’s much more, but enough of my laundry lists… I wanted to share at least this much with you so that my reflection on juggling creative tasks has a context. Here are a few strategies I’m trying out–to conserve creative energy where I can so that I can “spend it all” where I feel called to.

  1. Prioritize. I’m blessed to be focusing mostly on the creative development of projects. Other tasks that come up—usually the technical stuff—goes lower on my priority list. “Can it wait a day, or a week?” I ask myself. For juggling the various creative projects, I always try to find out (or predict) which projects are urgent or will develop deadlines; those go at the top of my list. While I schedule time for email and other tasks on a daily basis, I do them after I’ve put in a good chunk of time on the top creative project(s). If I have any doubts about what to put first, I bring it to my daily Hour of Adoration. Jesus and I seem to come up with good decisions together.
  2. Organize my work space well. Having a new, empty office is simply invaluable, but I haven’t taken full advantage of that yet. I want to set up the drawers and shelves that I have, so that by the end of this week, I’ll have an accessible place for every project and also for the department business that comes up. Thoughtful organization of files on my computer is essential, too—finding what I need quickly. (I sense an upcoming photo op when I’m done!)
  3. Choose to collaborate with other creative people when possible. I can’t precisely describe my instinctive working style, as I seem to adapt to my situation. However, for the past ten years I’ve mostly worked solo. Writing a book—even co-authoring  the way Sr. Mary Lea and I did—is mostly researching and writing on my own. But my new assignment involves working closely with two different creative teams. I no longer have to put out all the creative energy, nor do I have to push a project to completion on my own. Our team shares that responsibility. I believe the secret to collaboration is to see and cherish the gifts that God has given to each person. If I can understand and trust what each person can best offer to the project and process, then I can allow that to happen organically. This approach both focuses me to offer my best, and frees me from trying to do all the creative weight-lifting. We’re in this together.
  4. Take time to nurture my creativity—the time it deserves. I can’t forget that, with the many projects and demands on my time, my task is to respond creatively. So it’s critical to take the time both to think through each project and to charge the creative “batteries.” For me, that might mean bringing a project to prayer, taking an afternoon to brainstorm and research before diving in to a project, journaling so that I can get below the surface, taking a prayer-walk to clear my head and reset my priorities in the light of faith, or sneaking in forty minutes a day on a creative project “just for fun” like a NaNoWriMo novel.

All of us are committed in many directions. In light of yesterday’s (Sunday) reading from 1 Thessalonians, how do we discern God’s will for us and the gifts He has given us when we multi-task and multi-write? For me, being “in flow” doesn’t just refer to a creativity that carries me through a writing session, but, more importantly, feeling that I’m fulfilling my personal vocation and doing what God intends me to do:

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes. 1:11-12).

How do you keep your creativity flowing and give priority to your personal mission?

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3 thoughts on “Multi-Writing

  1. Talking is my key to keeping creativity flowing. My kids are teens and twenty-something’s, so their lives are constantly growing and changing. I love talking to people as different from myself as I can – my patients (a twenty-eight year old married artist who says he doesn’t want to be a dad, a divorced 35 year-old raising three kids while working two jobs, a 62 year old grandfather dying of pancreatic cancer, a healthy 93 year-old tap-dancing grandma, and the variety never seems to end). I love talking to the Bosnian cleaning lady and our atheist secretary. My close friends I can share the most with, especially over a beer in the backyard. I need others to talk to; I’m way to boring to talk to myself.

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    • Jeff,
      This is a great tip that I wouldn’t have thought of! (At least not in those terms.) When I’m writing, sometimes the best thing I can do is to touch base with a friend, another writer, or someone I meet that day. Just the contrast between what I write and our conversation can provide a jumpstart to my creativity if it’s lagging; also, the interpersonal connection, which reinforces our humanity, can really heighten the creative flow. Thank you!

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