Saturday, June 9, 2018

Compartmentalizing Is My Secret Super Power

As I understand it, this week’s topic is how we keep the creative writing activity walled off from the mundane but pressing concerns of life such as the bills, politics, climate change, the funny sound in the car’s transmission, etc. (Actually the title of the prompt is “How much space do you give emotional nonwriting labor? Which doesn’t make much sense to me.)

So, pressing forward without much internal clarity on the actual topic here…I’m very VERY good at compartmentalizing. Not sure if I’ve always been this way or if I acquired the skill in my first days on the job at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a newly minted Buyer. The requisitions (in twelve colorful carbon copies) literally came pouring into my inbox all day long. I had to make calls to obtain quotes, return calls from vendors and impatient end users, had to write documentation for files, field calls from the reviewers (“Why didn’t the Buy American Act apply here? Where’s the Service Contract Act clause?” etc.). I had to walk over to Receiving and search for lost crates the vendor insisted had been accepted on the premises. There were meetings and presentations.  Oh and if the purchase order needed correcting? You had to use the correct color of ‘Wite Out” on each of those twelve rainbow-hued carbons. I had an army of ‘Wite Out” bottles on my desk.

Yup, busy.

And the frustrating thing was, you could never finish anything in one phone call or with one action because there were so many players involved. I like to pick a thing up, take care of it and move on, never looking back. Not possible with a lot of purchase orders in those days.

In order to survive, I got very good at breaking tasks down into component parts, doing what could be done at the given moment, setting it aside and moving to the next thing. I would not think about Stanley Scientist’s seriously overdue order of twelve crystals from Sweden until I got the next phone call on it or notice it had been delivered (but six were cracked and now we had to do a return…) I can click on and off on with regard to a topic or task.

NOT the evil alien scientist
When it comes to the writing, I sit down to write and I’m in the flow. The farthest thing from my mind will be the bills or the car or any other problem or issue other than the evil alien scientists menacing my heroine at the moment. If I were to allow the ‘emotional nonwriting labor’ to intrude, I wouldn’t BE writing because I wouldn’t be in the thick of the action on the alien planet. Flow interrupted. Muse departs for the day in a huff.

Sorry I have no useful tips or insights to offer here, since my compartmentalizing is just how I am, with a To Do list thrown into the mix. If you google the topic of learning to compartmentalize, lots of helpful blog posts and articles pop up. Apparently it can be a reaction to stress, among other things. Yup, that Buyer 1 job was stressful all right! But worth it to (a) pay the bills and (b) contribute to the scientific exploration of the universe. I loved being part of NASA/JPL and I’m really proud of my mission stickers, badges and pins. I was there and I played my business-oriented role in some very cool stuff.

Closing the blog post writing compartment now, time to move on to the next thing!

Note: Images other than cover art from DepositPhoto