My Superpower | From the Editor | Writing Is Work

My Superpower | From the Editor

Eric suggested I write an article on writing stamina.

“You know how when you write, you at some point lose focus? How can you push through, find inspiration, and keep going?”

I do what, now?

The fact is that continuing to write is never my problem. I never run out of inspiration (or, at least I haven’t yet), and I’m fully capable of writing all day, every day—whether I should write all day every day is another question for a different article. Writing is my default.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired.

Writing is work. It requires energy. Don’t think that the mind is some ethereal thing, unconstrained by the laws of matter—the mind is the activity of the brain, and the brain is a physical organ just like the rest of the body. Have you ever been walking, or perhaps jogging, thoughts moving along in time with your feet, when suddenly you get a flash of insight and your legs stop moving entirely? Conversely, have you noticed that an intense, really challenging workout tends to quiet the mind? You’ve got only so much glucose to fuel your organs and muscles with, and sending extra to the brain for some really tough mental work means turning down the flow somewhere else. It’s all the same energy. Being tired from mental work is entirely legitimate.

For me, staying on task is usually the hardest part, unless I’m working on something really challenging. I guess that’s not surprising—maintaining a squat is a lot harder than doing a series of brief squats, after all, even though it’s the same muscles holding the same weight. I find I can’t stay on task very long. In the course of writing one short article, like this one, I might have to take several short breaks. I might go back and edit an earlier paragraph, check my email inbox or my social media feed, or just stare off into space for twenty seconds, anything to switch to a different set of brain cells so that the ones I’ve been using can rest and recharge, even briefly.

But if I need a longer break, I’ll usually switch to another kind of work. I’ll set aside articles and work on fiction—or set aside fiction to work on articles. Or I’ll spend some time with a different article or a different story, one at a slightly different stage of development or appealing to a slightly different mix of my interests. Again, it’s all about switching brain cells—or even just letting go of the need to focus and allowing myself to switch tasks. No, I don’t get confused. No, I don’t forget where I am in any of my various projects.

How many projects do I have going at one time?

Let’s see, here’s a list—and it includes only writing-related things, not housework or yard work or anything like that. It’s just writing projects that I either have worked on today already or might spend some time on before the day is out:

  • Two articles for Eric (you’re reading one of them)
  • An article for the website of a client who grows and sells microgreens
  • One or more articles for the website of a client who sells mushroom-based supplements
  • Revisions for my next novel
  • First draft for either of two other novels (this isn’t counting yet another novel and a short-story collection I have outlined but currently keep very much on the back burner)
  • Either writing or world-building for my Wizard of Oz fan-fic project
  • Book proposal for a non-fiction project my husband and I are co-authoring
  • Checking up on the status of the article I’ve submitted to a certain collaborative group blog
  • Letters to my friend, Lynda, and my four Small Relatives (one of whom is almost as big as me, now!)

I’m not saying I will work on all of those today, I’m saying I might. I could. All are bouncing around in my head ready to go at any moment.

The fact is when I lose focus while writing, I don’t push through and keep going. Mostly I can’t. The energy isn’t there. Instead, I switch and do something else. If I keep switching, eventually I come back around to the first thing. I complete projects this way.

Long ago, when the Earth was young and so was I, some so-called expert diagnosed me with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Now, ADD is a real neurological condition (you may also have heard of its cousin, ADHD), but I’m pretty sure I don’t have it. I have other things, things to which the supposed experts were not paying proper attention—that’s another story for another time (and probably for a different venue), but I have to admit, sometimes I can kinda see where the experts were coming from. I mean, I’m unable to focus on a single project, so instead, I’m focusing on nine of them simultaneously—it is kind of…ADD-ish, shall we say?

But it works.

That is the key—rapid switching among multiple similar but not identical projects works for me and has for years. It’s how I do. And frankly, it’s kind of impressive. I mean, how many other people do you know who can keep this many plates spinning simultaneously?

I call this ability my ADD superpower. I mean no disrespect to the people who really do have ADD, and who have superpowers of their own—I’m not trying to step into their territory. Instead, my use of the phrase is my way of thumbing my nose at those supposed experts of my youth who did not pay attention, didn’t know what they were seeing, and mistook a difference for a disorder.

Because it’s not about doing things like everybody else does them—if everybody else does something and it works for them, their method is worth a shot because it might work for you, too—but if it doesn’t, try something thing else. Try something that doesn’t work for other people. Try something no one else would think of, something that seems bizarre or even foolish. It’s not about being unique on purpose, being a “free spirit,” or whatever, it’s about doing what works. And if that means using the gift some so-called expert told you was a disorder or a disease or a curse, then so be it.

Switching rapidly among multiple projects is my superpower.

What’s yours?


This article by Caroline Ailanthus, our editor, exists to inspire — maybe inspire you to write.

But writing is work you say (Caroline said so!). Yes, but it can provide so many benefits. The best work after all is work that doesn’t feel like work. We’d love to help you achieve that feeling. Create. Create a blog, a podcast, a book, or a video. We’ll help you. Reach out to us here.

And in the meantime, here’s a podcast episode featuring Caroline, giving you permission to write badly.

And here’s a short podcast episode on how writing is cathartic.