Joe Likes Pizza! and One Big Thing

Focus. Just don’t annoy your friends and family.

Words written on novel so far: 12,344

Interviews to do today: 2

Miles run today in a delicious summer rain: 3

Hi. I’m Anne, and I’m a multitasker. If I’m folding laundry, I might do it for ten minutes, then remember I’m letting the bread dough rise. I go put the loaves in the oven, come back upstairs and think about my son’s soccer game. Are his soccer clothes clean? I pull them out and put them on the bannister. I go back to folding laundry. But I haven’t talked to my parents in a few days, so I call them while I fold. My mom teaches piano; she mentions her recital, and I remember I need to check my daughter’s shoes for the piano recital. And on and on.

But one thing I’ve noticed: most people can only concentrate on One Big Thing at a time.

When I was in college, I fell in love for the first time. It took up 96 percent of my mental energy, leaving 4 percent (if that) for academic pursuits. Here is how most conversations went circa 1991:

[Setting: dorm with four rooms attached in a suite.]

“Hey, who wants to order pizza?”

“I do!”

“Save some for me!”

“Awwww. Joe likes pizza…”

Yeah. That was me.

Another example:

[Setting: my home, over the Christmas holidays.]

“So Jimmy Bob’s mother died. She was the one who owned the pizza parlor over on Lower Roswell…”

“Awwww. Joe likes pizza!”

Yeah, you guessed it. That was me, too.

One Big Thing. It’s the thing that sticks in your mind amongst all the other multitasking you do in a day: meetings, practices, doctor’s appointments, caregiving…

My husband’s One Big Thing right now is the marathon he plans to run in November. Here is how many of our conversations go these days:

[Setting: His car, on the way home from work.]

Him: Hey–what’s for dinner?

Me: Spaghetti.

Him: Awesome. I’ll be doing my 4-miler tonight and an 8-miler tomorrow. I need the carb loading.

Me: Great. So remember: we have to leave for the soccer game at 6:45.

Him: 6:45… When I was running yesterday, my average pace was 6:45. Well, I started out at a 7:15, but then there was a great stretch, and I got up to 6:55, and then…

There are a lot of numbers involved in our conversations now. A lot of numbers, people.

When I was training for my first marathon last year, it was my One Big Thing. My daugher would sneeze, and I would shriek, “Don’t get sick!” My children were certain I was losing my mind.

I might have been losing my mind: when I would try to sit down and write, A.) sitting down was not as comfortable with my newly bony behind (this is a joke; the marathon did not help in that respect at all) B.) all I could focus on was my next hit… er, run.

My point is: you have to watch out for what your One Big Thing is. You can multitask till the cows come home, with smaller, less brain-intensive activities. But if all roads start leading you back to the “Joe Likes Pizza!” point, beware.

That is why I chose to focus on my novel for a while. Novel writing is my One Big Thing for at least the next few months. Of course, there are articles to write, deadlines to meet, miles to run, kids to take to the pool, floors to clean, laundry to fold, in-laws to entertain.

But always in the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking about my characters. Their plights, their next scenes, their eccentricities.

While my husband spouts out numbers, my mind will be calculating words, feeling the sounds on my tongue, watching strangers to see their weird ticks so I can steal them.

Embrace your One Big Thing. It’s a little bit like being in love.

What’s your One Big Thing right now? How do you keep a balance in your life? Do you annoy others when you keep circling back to your unique “Joe Likes Pizza!” theme?

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18 thoughts on “Joe Likes Pizza! and One Big Thing

  1. crubin says:

    My one big thing is my writing–all-inclusive. Meaning my blog, my current WIP, and my constant anxiety about not yet hearing from my assigned editor for my soon-to-be published novel. Okay, maybe that last thing is my really, really big one thing. Aarrgghhh!

    Funny post. Loved your one-track college mind thoughts. 🙂

  2. annewoodman says:

    Awesome! Congrats. If you tour down here in the South, you’ll have to let me know.

  3. thepoelog says:

    Hard to focus, but I’d say the One Big Thing currently is buying our first house. It’s giving me heart burn, insomnia, panic….yep, just like being in love.

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh yes, I’ve read a bit of that on your blog. ; ) I think buying a home is a worthy Big Thing. Just wait til after you buy it. You lie in bed that night and think, “Oh. My. Gosh. What have we done?”

  4. Daryl says:

    What’s for dinner?
    Seriously, I think that there is a medical term for jumping from (a) to (z), then (b) and perhaps (e) (note: the HD is not high definition). I’m definitely there. That’s what I love about running. (a) is the start of the run, and (b) is the end. Not much happens mentally inbetween–other than numbers. Numbers have no consequence other than internal bragging rights.
    You nailed my “Big Thing”. I hope that I’m not too unbearable?

    • annewoodman says:

      You’re lucky that I can relate so well to your goal. ; ) It’s just that the numbers tend to blur together after a while: “number number number run number number fast number number win number number.” Do not quiz me on it later.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    It’s definitely the writing. Or at least the attempt to round up the characters so we can get back to writing. But I got some new scenes done today, and I have a clearer idea about how to handle the last few scenes. See? Even in posting a comment, I’m thinking about my One Big Thing. 🙂

    Good luck with yours! (And may your characters stick around to help with the revisions.)

  6. David Gentry says:

    Since I am an entrepreneur, my One Big Thing is how do I get more customers and how do I control expenses.

    “What is your One Big Thing?” is a very, very good question. As one who is getting up in years, I wonder if I have spent my life thinking about my current work project, what’s on TV tonight, paying bills tomorrow, making an appointment for my annual physical exam, etc. — in other words, a lot of small things. When I go to my shrink this coming week, I am going to ask her, “What is going to happen to me after I die?” I know she will look amused, and she will try to avoid the shrink response, “What do you think will happen to you?” I am working on my answer to that one. Actually, I predict my shrink’s response will be a smile and silence. She is a darn good shrink.

    • annewoodman says:

      A smile and silence is actually just annoying.

      I think the most important thing is that you have a One Big Thing. Maybe the concern should be when you don’t have a One Big Thing. ; )

  7. robincoyle says:

    Ha ha! I steal weird ticks from people too.

  8. 4amWriter says:

    Writing is my one big thing, and then the second big thing would have to be how to write with kids, lol. There are many guilt-laden days where I put the kids on the back burner so I can tend to all facets of my writing (this includes blogging, such as now, while my kids are playing Club Penguin and Pixie Hollow).

    I multi-task like you, and my mind is free-wheeling through the fictional town of my WIP. Many times I’ve interrupted chores to jot down a new idea for my novel.

    I love people-watching and getting ideas from the crazy things they do, too. Sometimes my imagination just isn’t weird enough I guess. I have to draw from real life.

    • annewoodman says:

      Writing with kids and other responsibilities is a time crunch. I know that if it weren’t kids, it would be something else, though. Not many people are free to write 24-7… maybe making the sacrifice is part of what makes it so rewarding.

  9. Lately it’s been supporting my wife and her terminally ill and recently passed mother-in-law. This will migrate back into writing over the next few weeks. I hope!

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