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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Make Genghis Proud

Be Mused

Make Genghis Proud

GenghisDear Muse,

I have a problem that many might consider a blessing depending on where they're coming from. I keep myself pretty busy. I have a lot of rewarding projects and I enjoy them all. I know I am lucky in this regard. The problem is that I have so many of them that progress on each seems painfully slow sometimes. I like working in parallel as opposed to serial because it keeps me motivated and always able to find something to focus my creative energies on. I think this pattern helps me turn a tendency to distraction and my jack-of-all-trades nature into productive assets. Unfortunately I don't feel that it has gotten me very far in the way of accomplishments and financial sufficiency — which although not my primary concern would certainly make it possible to do even more new and interesting things in the future. It's not as if I am simply waiting for success to come from the blue, I am wondering if I'm not working as smartly as I could be even though it feels like the right way. — Mr. V

Working in parallel sounds impossible and strange to me. I am a one-thing-at-a-time sort of girl — even when it comes to eating my lunch. I devour my pickle completely then move on to the sandwich. Consume the sandwich then start on the potato salad. I have dined with daring others who try a forkful of this and then that and back around again. Chewing mouthfuls of mush, they tell me it all gets mixed up in their stomachs anyway and they think the way I do things is unusual.

But seldom do I have an opportunity like this to argue my case. Just as I like to savor one dish at a time, I, with an eye for efficiency, also savor one major project at a time. It is wonderful that you have so many creative ventures, but it is no wonder that you say your progress seems painfully slow. At this rate, your progress on every project will continue to be painfully slow.

Lucky for you Genghis Khan hasn't gotten wind of your work habits. Clearly one of the most accomplished men of the late 12th and early 13th centuries, he believed that the most important aspect of any task is its completion. By working on so many projects simultaneously, you delay the completion of all of them.

You admit that you have a "tendency to distraction," and I think this is especially telling. Perhaps you are using your many projects as distractions from one another. It has been said that the key to achievement is distinguishing between motion and action. You, Mr. V, sound like a man in motion, always bustling and feeling busy, but when was the last time you actively finished something?

Do you secretly gain something by working in agonizing parallel and finishing nothing? Of course! For one, you don't have to find out if any of your ventures will ultimately succeed or fail. For another, you never have to prioritize or develop a strong sense of self-discipline.

You say that "accomplishment and financial sufficiency" are not your primary concerns. Then what is your primary concern? If it is that you might not be working as effectively as you could be, there's one good way to find out. Why not choose just one thing and work on it to the exclusion of all the rest of your projects until it is finished? At that point, others may offer you creative feedback; your work may improve, and your financial and productive prospects may, too. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »