When might compartments be necessary? Perhaps when you’re juggling two all-consuming passions?

from midwestmasters.wordpress.com
from midwestmasters.wordpress.com

I’m in a pickle and I need your help.

I have two all-consuming passions right now and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. It involves the writing of two books.

Dreamy summer

Since April I have been immersed in research for a book I want to write about Elizabeth Alcott, the one sister of that illustrious family who has never truly been fleshed out. I just spent one of the most meaningful summers in years, head buried in old books, Alcott letters and journals from the Houghton Library at Harvard, and biographies of the family. I’ve spent countless hours in
tetrasthe car during my long commute to work talking out my theories, struggling to assemble the puzzle and having no luck. Then one day, a line for a preface to the book came into my head out of nowhere and I scribbled the beginnings of the preface to the book. I poured over the preface for the next two weeks, watching the puzzle pieces fall neatly into place, as if I was playing Tetras. I sent the preface off to my editor and she wrote back saying she couldn’t wait to read the first chapter. I was elated.

I should have been burnt out but I wasn’t. I looked forward to many more months of the same.


And then, along came an opportunity. A professional opportunity that I could not turn down. But it’s a project that will require everything I have. I must pour myself into this project as I did with my Alcott project. This project, if accepted, could open many doors and teach me the trade in ways I could never have imagined.

Can’t bear to put it away

kayakLetting go of my first love has been difficult. The boat is full and still raring to go, but I had to push the boat away and dock it for a time. I can still see that boat off in the distance, calling to me.

Changing direction

But I must be a professional. I must attend to this present opportunity and give it the same passion as I gave to my Alcott project. Switching mindsets is like getting stuck in the mud, trying to lift the heavy foot out of the muck, cleaning it off, and setting it in a new direction. And both feet have to go.

Can I stick to my principles?

jugglingAnd then I started wondering: could I juggle both projects at once?  Would it require creating separate compartments in my mind and heart to house them? Isn’t compartmentalization the very thing I have been pushing away, trying instead to live in a single flow? Didn’t I start this public blog to hold myself accountable to that idea?

Now what?

I could really use your help on this. Please tell me if you have experienced this and how you dealt with it. If you know of a blog post, please share the link in the comments.

And I thank you!

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18 thoughts on “When might compartments be necessary? Perhaps when you’re juggling two all-consuming passions?

  1. Decide on what is to be your main purpose for your book. How are you trying to help people: your family and others? Develop that true higher purpose and then you will be inspired to write your book, beyond your interest in the Alcott book. Then take days off from your book, a few days when needed, to work on your Alcott research. To recharge.

  2. We think you have what it takes to complete both projects well. Just imagine yourself back in school where you had to juggle many subjects and responsibilities at once. You can do it, breathe, relax and get the job done. we look forward to the book on Lizzie! xo LMA

  3. Hi, we’re back in hopes of convincing you to stay true to your passion and write that book on Lizzie, not only so we can read it! Here is a bit of bio on Franz Kafka that we pulled from wikipedia. we hope it inspires you:

    Kafka trained as a lawyer and, after completing his legal education, obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time. For the rest of his life, he complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He regretted having to devote so much attention to his Brotberuf (“day job”, literally “bread job”).

    However the right decision is the one you make, xo LMA

  4. Make a schedule! Plot out the time you have in a day, and think it out rationally — as opposed to in the moment as you pull to one or the other project. You can certainly do both if time permits it and the idea doesn’t overwhelm you. Just schedule sufficient time for both per week, and stick to your guns! Emerson would say yesterday’s ideas can always be reformed. (Self-Reliance)

    But then, if multi-tasking is hard for you, you might over-exert and burn out, so take it slow and see how it feels. (Is my advice.)

    1. I’m into the scheduling idea and I am definitely committed to spending time each day on the priority project with the idea of doing the first love project as a reward (and reading too). It’s super slow at work and I have big blocks of time but it’s not totally mine so it’s hard to be disciplined. Rather than make a weekly schedule, I prefer to examine each day and schedule it with what I need to do, working off a to-do list. I’m actually more likely to keep to that rather than a weekly schedule. But you’re absolutely right!

      You’re also right that I don’t enjoy multitasking. This summer’s research reminded me of the one other time I got to focus on just one thing: the first 6 weeks of my son’s life. Glorious! So peaceful just thinking about one thing (my poor husband, he got no attention during that time!) even with the crying, diapers and night feedings. It was just wonderful and I count it as one of the happiest periods in my life. This past summer is right up there. 🙂

  5. I work full time and write books, and have always been able to juggle the two but it does take focus and commitment – and no time wasting outside the two things! That means no TV, no socializing, no Facebook, the simplest meals and hire somebody else to clean. I give my all to both commitments, doing my best professionally and then not being able to wait to throw myself into my writing during my time off work. Good luck! The rewards are worth it.

      1. It´s difficult to choose, but you may go on with the two projects and do nothing else during the time they last.
        I´m anxious to write the book about Elizabeth ALcott!!!
        I´d love to travel to see your presentation at Orchard house!
        (I´m from Argentina)

  6. Good luck, Susan! Follow your passion and your intuition. Take the time to devote yourself to the new opportunity, if it is right for you; but don’t forget your passion. As your moment of inspiration in writing your preface shows, things tend to come to you when the time is right. Lizzie possess great patience, and will be waiting in those quiet moments of inspiration. I also think its important not to dedicate all your time to work or you will get burned out and will have nothing to give to your work; it’s important to take time for yourself too. Everyone’s writing process is different — trust yourself.

    1. All very true! I am trying to trust my instincts. They have not failed me yet. Hope your dissertation is coming along as you would like it, would love to read it someday.

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