Dissociate Me


547px-Janus-VaticanSometimes I wish I had a modified version of Dissociative Disorder, a kind I could turn on and off at will. Prolific writers seem to have mastered the ability to dissociate, to turn their minds to disparate worlds, characters, stories as easy as changing the settings on the washing machine. There’s a skill there that is proving gawdawful hard for me to learn.

I’m not interested in proliferation. (Not yet anyway, wheee!) I only want to be able to dig into one story while wrapping up another, to work on them both at the same time. The prevailing wisdom is while the betas have a draft, or while waiting on queries, get to work on your next story. Alrighty, then. Only, now my mind is split between two stories set in very different eras, with characters who would not be friends in real life. I need to be concentrating on one, but my mind drifts to the other. This seems a sure recipe for not finishing either project, and it may be that most insidious form of procrastination I’ve talked about before: procrastination that looks suspiciously like progress. But even this terrible possibility hasn’t forced me to develop a more effective strategy yet. A writer friend suggested that this ability is a habit, one that takes time to develop. In the meantime, it feels like driving in circles.

Learning the ins and outs of creating marketable fiction is a struggle. Just when a writer thinks he’s conquered one aspect—say, dialogue, point-of-view or storytelling—he’s faced with a new, higher-level skill. It’s daunting, and frustrating. No wonder so many people stick manuscripts in the trunk and never pull them out again. There are plenty of resources for learning mechanical skills, but for the more esoteric skills, it’s really a matter of slogging through and figuring it out on one’s own. Because each writer’s process is unique.

No one can actually teach me how to split my brain to manage two (or more) books at once. I have to learn it, develop a working solution. I’m not a naturally effective multi-tasker at the best of times, and when I’m immersed in writing, forget it. I live in my story. Even food and sleep get shunted to the farthest back burner. But to be a professional about this, which is my goal, this skill must be learned.

Like Janus, a writer must be able to look in opposite directions and see two, sometimes opposing, views at once.

Jupiter help me.


Photo Attribution: By Fubar Obfusco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



7 thoughts on “Dissociate Me

  1. alex wu

    Eh, multitasking is overrated. It causes stress, which causes death. They say that when you multitask, there’s no true parallel processing. What you’re doing instead is rapidly switching among tasks, with the result being inefficiency and errors. You get a better work product when you focus on one task.

    I’m like you, I have a one-track mind. Frig, I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. I prefer to focus on one novel and I can’t move on until that one is largely done. It’s slower, but hey, Donna Tartt took ten years to write The Goldfinch.

    • *hugs you* IDK, I don’t regret that I can’t text, watch TV, cook and surf the internet simultaneously, but I’d like to be able to revise for a few hours and work on the new novel for a few, dammit. Donna Tartt…well, that’s something anyway. Still, can’t I be Stephen King in his mid-life proficiency? hrmph.

  2. I can only write one thing at a time. I’m like you, Elaine–when I’m writing, that’s all I’m doing. I’m totally immersed in the process, the story. Weird thing is, folks are telling me to send a batch out and, whilst waiting, work on something new. WHA?? I can’t do that!

    There’s something about writing, some odd rule that says when you’re walking that walk, you can’t slip into a different pair of shoes. They won’t take you anywhere. You’ll be walking around in circles, isn’t that what you’re afraid you’re going to do?

    You said it yourself, “Each writer’s process is unique.” That’s true, so try not to put added pressure on yourself. Writing is tough enough, sometimes. We writers need to be kind to ourselves. After all, giving birth to the Great American Novel ain’t no walk in da park.

    xo kk

  3. Poo, I deleted part of that post. First paragraph, what I wrote originally was something about how I have no problem querying two novels at once. But folks are telling me to send a batch out and, whilst waiting, . .

    Shit. I shoulda known I can’t drink lemon-lime Kool-Aid and type at the same time.


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