I can’t multitask and neither can you

I think the reason why I am such a sucky blogger (read: why I don’t blog every day or even every other day) is because I can’t multitask.

I watch TV and have my laptop on my lap (where it should be), its hunka hunka burnin’ love battery slowly burning a hole down into the top of my left thigh, and I find that I am either engrossed in writing my post and I just missed Jon Stewart’s last three jokes, or I am laughing hysterically, gazing into his steely-grey pools of truth, my hands limply hovering over the keyboard.

This leaves me with a choice.  Do I have a life, or do I blog?

But if I don’t have a life, I’ll have nothing to blog about!

So I alternate.

I do fun things, and then time stops so I can blog about them.  You know, like Evie Garland from Out of This World, one of the best TV shows from my adolescence.  Oh, the possibilities!  Oh, to have the stunning blond basketball star Chris as a boyfriend!  To have an alien dad talk to me from a glowing box!  To have….Uncle Beeno!

I maintain that humans are incapable of multitasking.  I don’t care who protests, it just ain’t true.  When your brain is doing Thing 1, you have all your neurons working on it.  The second you add in Thing 2 (or try to), the quality of your work on both tasks plummets, and you actually have to split attention between the two; attention is not being paid simultaneously, at least not conscious attention.

For this reason, it is no one’s business to text and drive, or even talk using a hands-free device while driving.  It just can’t be done well or safely.  I can’t do it, and I know none of y’all can do it.

But I digress.

How do you writers do it?  I imagine writers have writing time and then living time…but if writers are writing all the time for a living (ha), then are they living less?  Do y’all feel like time stands still when you write?

Now I’ll allow this LSD trip to run its course while all of you enlighten me on these very important questions.

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24 responses

  1. Some writers have lives? I know there are some small people in my house that keep insisting I play with them, or talk to them, or feed them. And a husband who can usually entertain himself by taking cars and lawn mowers apart and leaving them apart. Also there’s that job thing, though they let me have a computer, and they really shouldn’t have. It really is a balancing act, and I know I don’t balance it all that well. I tend to favor the playing with kids (I recognize that plastic couch – it’s on the floor somewhere in the house) and writing and less on stuff like cleaning or cooking anything remotely healthy.

  2. Ah! Multitasking! When you have kids, it is a necessity! You learn to do it. Maybe not well all the time, but you have to. Three little ones talking at the same time or bickering, dinner to cook and then the phone inevitably starts to ring? You answer the phone (and actually have a conversation) as you frown and gesticulate to make sure they stop fighting or you mouth the words of encouragement they need/or the answer they need, while you slice up vegetables and what nots… Not satisfying nor intellectual but multitasking nonetheless! And that’s only ONE example of my everyday multitasking… I don’t know how my mind does it but I guess it develops as you give birth?!?! So multitasking can be done in my opinion and depending on the task, you can be quite efficient! ;o) I do agree though that in some cases you get quantity over quality.

    • I absolutely agree that humans are adept at changing their focus quickly (like from kids to phone to kids) and that we are also very awesome at filling in the gaps cognitively (like when you’re silently yelling at your child, you may miss a few words of the phone conversation, but still catch the meaning of the sentence). Buuuut…..I still maintain that *true* multitasking, where you’re doing two or more conscious tasks simultaneously and at full capacity, is a myth.

  3. You’re spot on, actual multitasking in it’s truest form is impossible. No one can focus on multiple things at once. It’s ridiculous to think that you can. That being said, I’m completely ADD and like having multiple tasks to complete by a given time frame. Switching off makes me happy.

  4. I am incapable of multitasking. I literally shut everything out while I work on something else. In the wedding video years, I could tune out an entire wedding reception and read a book. My brain does one thing at a time. I agree about texting while driving. Worst idea ever. (I am guilty of talking while driving, but I figure that’s no worse than having a passenger…) Just now, I caught myself staring at the weird Amy Winehouse doppelganger commercial for Heineken while in the midst of this comment. Multitask fail.

  5. You are right. Multi-tasking is a myth. I tried to write my blog while writing this comment and it was impossible. I don’t know how people can text and drive because I can barely turn on the car radio without feeling like I’m going to crash into something.

  6. I read this blog while watching a wedding-themed reality show on TLC. While it’s definitely not a task that requires a high level of attention, I still had to re-read several pf your sentences to get the idea. Case in point: some people claim to be able to truly multitask, but I don’t buy it!

  7. Whew! For a moment, I thought of Small Wonder instead of Out Of This World, and worried about your sanity.
    Teh difficulty in multitasking lies in the tasks and our familiarity with them – walking and chewing bubble gum? Easy. Usuually.
    Talking and playing guitar? For those who are very practiced, easy. I can’t do it yet. My half of the conversation is delivered singsong to match what I’m playing.
    But I’ll get there.
    I hope.

    • But seriously, I’m talking about more cognitive tasks, like paying conscious attention to two (or more) things at once. Chewing ain’t so cognitive, neither is walking. But watching TV – really paying attention to it – and blogging…can it be done? I say no. Not simultaneously, anyway. People just alternate very quickly between tasks and call it simultaneous.

      • Do you think you’re splitting hairs?
        And what about musicians having conversations while playing?

        Or talking to one person while listening in on another conversation?

      • About musicians, I think that playing music partly becomes muscle memory, like riding a bike, such that once you learn it well you spend less conscious energy on it.
        About talking and listening, I maintain that the quality of your listening to one conversation plummets as soon as you try to listen to another. Ever spend time thinking of what you’ll say next and realize you haven’t heard what the other person had been saying?
        Sure, people can make it work and put the gist together, just like people manage to text and drive without dying (sometimes), but it’s the quality of really paying full attention that can’t happen.

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