The art of doing two things at once

Standup comedy

If I could choose a superpower, it would be multitasking. I can do two (or even three) things at roughly the same time, but I won’t pretend I’m doing anything other than dividing my focus. Each task gets a slice of my brain, nothing gets the whole twisted deal.

When I tried my hand at stand-up, I set goals. I would see if I had it in me to tell jokes in front of two hundred people and make them laugh. I’d also find new ways to sharpen my writing.

I performed in front of 200 people last December.

Since then, I’ve continued the quest to write better material, and believe I’ve made headway. But it’s come at a price. My next novel stalled.

Back to the edit

This week, I blew the digital dust off my latest draft and set to work editing. After an enjoyable hour or two of writing new life into the opening scenes, I sat back satisfied and rediscovered the happy vibe of an author who’s totally nailed his story.

With comedy class a day or two away, I put my story to one side and set about writing something new to try out in front of fellow comics. Once more, things went well and the words flowed.

I was multitasking.

The next day, I tried to edit my story some more, except I wasn’t feeling it.

Fair enough, it’s been a while.

I switched back into stand-up mode. An hour brainstorming ideas that would become jokes that might make it through the ruthless edit of class is still time well spent.

Except I wasn’t feeling it.

Multitasking fail

My novel needs my full attention. There are threads to juggle, characters to shape, dialogue to shave, elaborately familiar pictures to write. Stand-up demands choppy delivery. Sketches drawn in five words or fewer. Specific personal attitude. These two different styles of writing don’t fit with multitasking.

I spent a day back in my Amsterdam home town this week. Along the way, I talked to old friends about writing, and what I heard was me admitting something has to change.

I’ve enjoyed the comedy classes. They’ve taught me how to write sharper jokes, but right now, I need to tell stories. And that’s forbidden in the style of comedy advocated by my current mentor.

In July, I’ll take my final stand-up bow (for the time being) and return all focus to writing ‘The Toast of Brighton’. When the nights grow long and I’m itching for validation once more, who can say. Perhaps I’ll find some other comedy class with a different focus. Perhaps I’ll find a different distraction.

Until then, here comes the summer.

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