I have a reasonably long attention span, I don’t suffer from anything like what gets diagnosed as ADD/ADHD, but I do find myself having trouble focusing on one thing for very long. Not minutes, not hours, but … usually after a few days or weeks, I have trouble staying focused and interested on working on the same thing.
Right now it’s this book, Cheating, Death. I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my next novel about four months ago, and had its initial outline done by mid-July. Then I spent two and a half months reading modern, popular, and recommended zombie novels until I was on the verge of being so sick of zombies I couldn’t have written Cheating, Death. At which time, in the middle of reading one of the books, I just stopped reading and began writing. And I’ve spent the last 5 weeks working on it. In a conversation with my brother earlier tonight, I estimated that I’m on roughly the ninth or tenth pass through the full text of the book, between writing it, editing it, copyediting, hand-coding the kindle version, recording the audiobook, and now editing the audiobook.
It’s no wonder I’m having trouble maintaining interest in editing the audiobook. (Have you tried reading the same book 9+ times in a month?) If I’d been able to sit still and work through the edits, hour after hour, I should have been able to finish the first pass through the entire audiobook in (at most) two days, finishing today. Alas, I’m not quite halfway through with the main edits, I’ve barely begun the work of marketing the book, and I’m nearly fed up with it. I want to work on anything else.
I want to work on my next book. I’ve been brainstorming & worldbuilding for the next book and have come up with at least one more (longer, more complex) novel in addition to that which will be set in the same universe. I lost a couple of nights recently in looking toward what I’d like to accomplish in the next five years. I spent several hours with my brother tonight developing (from scratch) the basics of a video game we want to develop. I’m able to work on each of these other ideas & projects for hours at a time over multiple days; it’s not a moment-to-moment shifting from project to project, it’s an urge to work on anything other than Cheating, Death, right now.
I am aware that other authors work on a single book for months, often for years, before ever considering submitting it for publication – and that’s before professional editors start working with them on it, a process that typically stretches on for a year or two before the book reaches the market. I am aware of it. It’s just not something I do. I’m undisciplined, unfocused. I have trouble working on a single project (a book, an audiobook, learning a language) for more than a few weeks. I have trouble working on a single image (a painting, a website design) for more than a few days. I have trouble working on a single blog post for more than a few hours.
On the other hand, I’m intense. I’ve written several novels in about two weeks each, and I wrote one of them in under 3 days. I’ve won NaNoWriMo four times. Cheating, Death is the second novel I’ve gone from first word to finished-paperback-book-for-sale with in under a month. I usually take a website redesign from zero to done in less than two days. When I’m working passionately, I dive in completely, forsaking sleep, the normal bounds of time, and press on diligently until I’ve exhausted either the idea or my interest in it – and then, like I’m certainly going to do with the Cheating, Death audiobook, I usually continue working on things in which my interest has waned, at least until that phase of my work is complete. Even my sense of responsibility (& stubbornness) is intense; I remain dedicated to completing the work, and doing so to the best of my ability, in spite of even intense apathy.
I’ve just spent nearly four hours working on this post, and I’ve had a headache for almost half that. I ought to be sleeping. Not just because I’ve been awake so long, but also so I can wake in the morning and dedicate tomorrow to working (at least a few hours) on editing that audiobook. To marketing it. To getting it from being just a book I wrote to something people are actually reading and listening to. Hopefully the acetaminophen I took a little while ago will take effect soon; I’m not sure how easily I’ll be able to sleep with this headache.