48 days, day 17: multi-tasking, or not

{{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days and would like to share, please link or comment so we can all cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

"Now, you're either on the bus, or off the bus." -- Ken Kesey (photo by Joe Mabel at Wikipedia)
It's a short hop, in my imagination, from yesterday's Neil Diamond to today's Magic Bus. That traveling salvation show led me to think about Ken Kesey's bus, Further, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and the many other trips Further made across the U.S., which led me to research The Merry Pranksters and the Hog Farm and the other busses of the sixties... and I thought: get yourself a school bus, paint it in psychedelic colors, fill it with hippies and returning Vietnam veterans, women who want a voice, a writer and a musician and... and maybe a 14-year-old, and you're set for the journey of a lifetime.

Wavy Gravy had a bus: Road Hog. Lisa and Tom Law had a bus: Silver. Lisa still has her bus, on her property in Santa Fe. She also has thousands of negatives she shot while living through some of the most amazing moments of the sixties. I read about Lisa and whispered to Jim: road trip.

The research of the past few days has led me to finding out more about Woodstock than I wanted to know, more about Vietnam than I can take in, more about the Haight and communes and Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip riots and the Kent State shootings than is good for anyone to know in three days' time.

I still have trouble appreciating "The Glorious Inconsistency of The Grateful Dead." Don't hate me.

My mind is wrinkled. Maybe Rachel has sat still long enough. Maybe I can switch gears and look at my picture book draft and complete a revision. Maybe not.

I have never been able to work on more than one writing project at a time. The Sixties Project has consumed me since 2008... well, the Sixties Project and the traveling I've done for work, for research, for family, for promotion of each book as it has arrived in the world. All good work. I've been grateful for every scrap of it.

I'm wondering if I can finish Rachel and maybe one other picture book I want to revise before I start writing Book 3 in earnest. I know it will swallow me once I start, just as COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION did. Or maybe it won't, as I've committed to more time at home this year, in The Year of Exploration. Part of that year is being taken up (happily) with the water management project and the edible yard & garden project I'm documenting over at Instagram.

I dunno. I'm mulling how to manage my time, now that I actually HAVE SOME. My late-blooming heart says, hurry up! don't dawdle! you don't know what time you have left!

I worry, like I always do, that on a day - days -- weeks -- when I have read and researched so deeply, so widely, I'm not getting any writing done. I trust that I am, but I worry that I'm not. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. (Thank you, Walt. And The Aurora County All-Stars.)

In possibly-related news, I am eating multitudes of frozen strawberry fruit bars these days (thank you, 4-year-old Abigail) in an effort to stave off melting completely in this heat wave.

Do you work on more than one project at a time? How do you do it? Do you recommend it? Do you eat multitudes of strawberry fruit bars to sustain yourself?

Thank you for all your mail. I so appreciate it. I'm sitting on the fender, below. xo Debbie

The Road Hog, Fourth of July Parade, El Rito, New Mexico 1968
"Road Hog" photo by Lisa Law


  1. Thank you so much for your earnest questions. They continue to mirror my own. They help me feel less alone! To answer: I have had to learn the hard way that working on more than one project at a time DOES NOT WORK FOR ME. Wish I'd learned this a couple of years ago. But now I know.

    1. You inspire me, Jennifer. I am just stubborn enough to think I can change my writing habits and possibilities, but I may not be able to. Still.... And it's good to know I'm not alone, either. :> Thanks for writing. xoxo

  2. That bus would almost fit in on the streets of Portland Oregon today. :) I've been enjoying your posts and learning a lot from them. I'm about to embark on a 3 month writing intensive and your work on the sixties is adding to ideas for my own work. I was born in 1960 in Memphis and a lot of the social upheaval you tell stories about reflects on my own life. I've always worked on more than one project, it keeps me from falling into despair when one seems to be blocked. My usual pattern is to write in the morning and do visual art in the afternoon. Now that I am determined to write a novel and not a short story, I'll have to have a page number goal each day. I'll be sorting it all out in the first week of July.
    I wrote a review of your book Each Little Bird that Sings a few years ago after my mother died. I don't remember if I tried to send you a copy of it, but here it is http://www.joycorcoran.com/2013/02/all-messy-glory.html if you'd like to read it. I've so enjoyed all your books and am grateful you present the story in history.

    1. I loved that review, Joy, and left a comment on your blog (well, a few comments :>). Thanks for writing, and for the news that you work on more than one project at a time -- I'm going to try it and see what happens. Good luck with the writing intensive. And may hugs on the death of your mom... xo

  3. It's so helpful to read along as I have a writing-filled summer of my own. Like you, I feel as if it took me ages to step on this writing path, so there's pressure from the stories that want to come out, all of them at once. However, they can't. I have to focus on one at a time. At most, I can make notes for other projects, but that's it.

    That said, I was so happy to finish a revision pass today. This time around it was long-hand, so typing still has to happen, but all the deep thinking and scribbling is done. I'm looking forward to typing, maybe making minor tweaks (please let them be only minor tweaks!) and then querying agents while I plot the next project, which has already risen to the top.

    1. Hmmm... my comment got eaten... what I was cheering about was a finished revision pass, and long hand at that! Hooray! Good luck. I am still dabbling instead of committing. We shall see. xo


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