Writing without the Weight of Emotional Multitasking


Release 1 oil on panel by Jim and Lynn LemyreThe fastest way to eliminate the drain of multitasking is turn off cellphones and email and The Google. But the deepest way is to resolve the emotional multitasking that is sapping our creative willpower.

By which I mean, our inner sense of conflicting purpose, aim, and energy. When we write at cross-purposes, in a state of inner war, most of our energy and willpower gets sucked up into these needless wars, and little is left for our writing.

Here’s an example of what I mean, one that I think everyone can identify with. Just imagine a weird kind of argument or discussion you get into where two of your emotional purposes are in conflict. On the one hand, you have an emotional need to be right and smart, no matter what, and the other person to be wrong. On the other hand, you have an emotional drive to seek and receive the approval of the other. When these two forces are present at the same time, you are burning through your energy, you are sending mixed messages, things can get weird, take weird turns and sometimes leave us wondering, “what just happened?”

And it can happen that way again and again and again. That’s because it has been deeply conditioned in us to react in certain situations in the same way over and over. Something triggers both of these needs, and they tussle it out in some patterned way that has happened many times before.

And as you can probably already see, these exacts same two cross-purposes are often in play in our writing work. We can be trying to assert something, and be right, or right-er, and the same time trying to be a “good” in the eyes of imagined others we respect. We have this need to assert our rightness and at the same time be accepted, recognized as belonging, and furthermore receive positive approval that we have done well. And this emotional multitasking, if unseen, can be very taxing on our willpower and energy. Because the will to be right and the will to find approval are often at cross-purposes.

Now this might sound a little infantile or something, and we might think that we should be able to just decide– as the CEO of our body-mind– to single out our true purpose and just proceed. But it’s just the CEO-type thought that sees this as infantile. In fact it is just plain, ordinary, and in a certain sense kind of normal. So the point of looking in this way is not to look down on ourselves but to acknowledge the presence of certain forces that are causing friction and internal conflict, the conflict stated here or other conflicts.

So what to do when we are emotionally multitasking in friction filled way?


1-2-3 Quick Post-Conflict Ritual

First thing we can do is recognize it when it is present. We can feel it as a frazzled frustrated torn and worn state and which includes a thick soup of sticky resistance possibly spiced with dread. That’s not a very scientific description I know. So we can look beyond the words to really experience it as it is, beyond words. And in fact that is what I would recommend as the first step in your post-conflict ritual.

 Step 1:

Feel what you feel. Register this energetic state and let yourself feel it as cleanly as possible. Which means, let go for a moment of all judgements about it, or yourself, or what’s going or what you should be doing, and get just get a clear transmission of the bodily sensations of being in this state of conflict.

Step 2:

If possible, spend a few moments in the state of presence and awareness that has a certain purposelessness to it. You are just here. The senses are functioning normally. The eyes are showing what is to be seen, ears hearing, body displaying sensations that are there, etc. And there is nothing to be done about it, and nothing you have to do to make it all work. It’s all done for you. Relax into a state of purposelessness. Quality over quantity counts here! Just a few moments is enough.

Step 3:

Institute your one short, easy, ritualized, counter-habit action. For example, if our conflict is about wanting the enjoyment of potato chips vs. being healthy, we might design the counter habit action rule to be always drink a cup of water. So one, feel the feeling. Two, spend a few moments in purposeless doing nothing. Three, drink water. After that anything goes. It may be diving into potato chips after that, or something else. But we consciously and deliberately slip in a counter-ritual and counter habit. We memorize this rule. Practice it over and over and in-grain it. We can then add steps to make it stronger.

What should our counter habit action be? Well first we have to become aware of what is the conflict we are experiencing. For me, if I am in conflict between trying to be right and trying to get approval, I would feel what I feel, spend a moments in presence without purpose, and then consciously and deliberately go to one of two main go to purposes: 1. Artistic or 2. Altruistic. So I would spend the next 5 minutes writing with a deliberate intent on writing something beautiful, elegant, or easy to read. Or else writing content that has as its primary purpose helping others, such as for instance with some ethical or political purpose. I would consciously adopt a different purpose, and for only a short amount of time. Then see where it goes after that.

I am not trying to completely transform deep patterns over night. I am just taking a moment to consciously enter into the stream with awareness and skillful purpose. Interrupt the pattern. Reset.

Your own three-step post conflict ritual can very quickly become an emotional reset button, actually. I promise you that in no more than 100 repetitions there will be a marked effect. Maximum! That’s like catching your inner conflict once a day for about 3 months. Maybe if you are sensitive you will notice it immediately. Either way, it is a small price to pay. What would you pay to get some freedom from inner conflict?

Is a quick 1-2-3 ritual not with it?

And if you want to heap a whole lot of goodness on your writing process, with coaches and peers cheering you on, with writing strategies for drafting, outlining, sharpening your argument, and revising, and gather into yourself all the benefits of Writer’s Momentum so that you can finish your writing and still have a life…

The Creative Academic Writing Bootcamp has spots open until Monday March 28, or until it fills, whichever comes first. To see if this is the right thing for you

click HERE