Saturday, April 18, 2009

The task of compartmentalizing

You know those slippery mercury balls inside old-style thermometers? How impossible they are to catch and hold onto? That's how hard I find it to compartmentalize. I'm a good multi-tasker and I'm organized, but for the most part everything else in my life bleeds together, which can be exhausting.

Is it a male thing? (every guy I know seems to be good at it) Or is it personality driven? Either way, I'm bad at it. Example: I hate watching the news, because if there's been a catastrophe somewhere (a shooting, a kidnapped child, a fire) it'll stay in the periphery of my thoughts for days afterward, upsetting me.

I like this explanation: a fellow author (who's published a dozen novels, half of them NYT bestsellers) told me she believes most writers feel things at a different level, that we have the ability to examine all the events around us in a camera-like fashion, record them in our subconscious with startling detail, and can then effectively draw them out (along with the emotions associated with each event) when we're writing.

Sounds plausible, but I think it's also a personality driven trait.
What about you?

19 comments:

Adam said...

It's a guy thing, no doubt about it. Every woman I know is a ball of emotion with no ability to compartmentalize.

Mystery Robin said...

I do think it's a gender thing. Any woman who's ever called her husband at work understands!

And I have to very carefully shield myself from headlines. I used to be able to read about anything, but since having babies, any violence against children haunts me. It's horrible.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm a male and I'm not good at it either. Only thing I can separate out and keep that way are the lures in my tackle box.

Julie Layne said...

I think it's definitely a male/female thing, though obviously not across the board (waving at Travis). The way I've heard it explained is men are like waffles, women are like pancakes. Think about what happens when you pour the syrup. :)

I find I can't really devote myself to a task if another one isn't completed that's taking a lot of mental energy.

I had to order some rugs and spent time yesterday and today online looking for the right rugs/right price. Think I got anything else done? Of course not.

Devon Elligton said...

I choose to live an holistic life, not a compartmentalized one. If I compartmentalize my life, it reflects in the writing. The writing loses its soul.

Part of our jobs as writers is to tell stories, and sometimes those stories are about difficult situations. If we're going to touch people with our words, we damn well better have an emotional response to real life trials and tribulations. There's a different between a fiction writer and a faker.

I don't think it's gender-based. It's personality based. And choice based.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Everything I do in life is completely organic -- my writing, housework, bill paying, raising kids.

The only place I must compartmentalize is at my job. If I don't perform my tasks in a predetermined sequence, all Hell breaks loose.

In my family, it's not a gender thing at all.

kyla-dale said...

What Devon Elligton above said.
Personality based AND choice based.

Ramona said...

I have to weigh in with my belief that one can't compartmentalize if one is able to multi-task beautifully -- they work against one another, don't they!

P.S. My boyfriend can't compartmentalize worth anything so I also think it's personality based.

Victoria said...

It has nothing to do with being male or female. I think it's part of our individual makeup, innate at birth. OH, and I do agree with your friend, it truly seems to be a writer thing!

Y'all tend to be such super-sensitive souls.

wordman17 said...

I'm crappy at both (multi-tasking and compartmentalization) + I couldn't write my way out of a paper box so I'd have to say it's a writer thing all the way.

LarramieG said...

Writer/female or not, I think we all feel things on different levels but it's the degree of awareness that makes the differene.

Bryan V said...

I think those who own the personality tend to be writers. I know amongst my friends, I usually give detailed descriptions of past events with useless descriptions thrown in there just for extra imagery. They usually look at me like I'm crazy

Alibaba said...

I think it's definitely a male/female thing, though obviously not across the board (waving at Travis).
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