Valian’s metaphor for multiple projects struck me because it did seem glamorous (and immoral); and because I have myself used the metaphor of writing as love object: a committed partner, or maybe a cat. And in various writing groups and individual posts we have talked about “stealing time” for writing, as if it were an illicit affair, as if writing were cheating on our real job of teaching or librarian-ing (and sometimes it is; not all of us are at institutions or positions where academic writing is understood to be part of the job).
I’ve been sitting with this metaphor for a few days, as I find myself, once again and despite my best intentions, juggling projects. Everything always seems to want more time than I have. The piece I thought could be finished during the summer drags on through revisions. I remember a rough draft as being more polished than it is. A promised conference paper seemed clear in my head when I wrote the proposal, but now looms as another time-consuming obligation.
Children seem a more accurate metaphor than illicit lovers. There’s nothing immoral about having lots of children, and you love them all. Some of them will go out to play while you tend to the latest baby; and then when the baby is asleep, you catch up to the older ones. Some of them grow up and go out into the world on their own. Of these, some get established in good homes of their own; and others may boomerang back, at least for awhile, in need of some bolstering and re-grouping before they’re ready to try again.
Particularly when projects are closely related (related! see?), working on one may mean working on another. Reading for one of the tentacles of the MMP gave me insights and references for two other pieces of work. If I don’t write about the insights and record the references, I’ll lose them, because the book I’m reading is not an obvious source for the other pieces.
I’ll tend them all, and eventually they’ll grow up, nourished as much by their interactions with each other as by my direct efforts on their behalf.