That word is not new to any of us. Some of us find it easier to do than others. Some try to juggle more than they should. I'm one of the latter. It stems from my inability to concentrate for long on one thing and my desperate need to keep my hands busy. As soon as the hands have a soothing repetitive task, the mind races ahead, exploring all sorts of things.
As a writer, these moments are when I develop characters, get to know them, learn they're responses to the crises I throw at them. It's when I see scenes play out between characters or develop rules for new societies and worlds. (I enjoy fantasy.)
The problem is, when I'm stuck driving a long distance, or while gardening, or preparing supper, I can't just drop everything and pick up a keyboard to start typing away. It's not always a good time for pen and paper, when your hands are covered in tomato juice or dirt, for instance. I often find myself wishing I had a little personal recorder I should just start reciting into, or much better, a memory device so I could see and hear what was in my head in that moment.
The cost of the multi-tasker is losing bits and pieces of these ideas. That and forgetting to make that right turn... crap! I'll swing around. However, even an idea lost this way isn't wasted. It is still a scrap of the reality you try to form when writing fiction, whether the exact words come back or not.
Sometimes I even multi-task while writing. I'll hit a block and take a moment to read a blog that updated, or break up my edit by hitting twitter. Something to jog the brain and shake that idea I had earlier in the day loose again. When I'm in the zone, my concentration is exclusive. I won't hear what my husband is saying or the phone ring or the ping of my gchat. Those are generally short spurts. I've been like that for ten or fifteen minutes and then it's gone again. I can keep rolling with the idea, and usually do, but sometimes, I'll take a break, open a different file.
The thing I try to remind myself is that none of it is wasted. Neither is the time taken doing research that doesn't make the page or reading a fellow writer's blog on third person when you're writing in first. It's all adding to the base we draw from, the nuances we use. It serves more than one purpose - multipurpose. Perfect for the multi-tasker!
This blog, in point form, was written on the back of a questionaire for dementia while waiting to see my doctor for a prescription renewal. Perfect example of me trying to cram more into every minute of the day. Good news - I'm not suffering from any of the symptoms. I might need to retake that attention deficit screen again though...