Firing off in all directions or Avoiding one basket

This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed my compulsion to genre hop. Nothing as dire as drug or alcohol addiction. Maybe more akin to buying too many shoes. I self-diagnosed, and  determined I have Distraction Compulsion Disorder (DCD). But focused DCD.

So, rather than wash my hands 400 times a day, I start 13 different writing projects. It’s not like I think it through. Hmm maybe an article will be more successful than the memoir. It’s that the idea grabs me and drags me off to the “new” button on the corner of the Microsoft Word page. Once the fresh sheet is in front of me, if you can call a blank screen with a couple of tool bars a fresh sheet, off I go.

For instance, the other morning I was listening to CBC radio (source of inspiration; trigger for DCD.) I heard an interview about Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 3 and its new social network, Elite poised to court society’s obsession with on-line gaming. Veering off track I wrote a rant about it and sent it to my friend KJ DellAntonia (who just got a full-time gig writing for Motherlode parenting blog at the NYT – check it out).

She told me the idea was good, but the structure had to change. Three iterations followed. The second, well written and organized, added nothing to the debate. The third seemed to hit a mark. I sent it to Slate. It sent back a gracious rejection. Then I sent it to the NYT, and the Globe and Mail. They inform you up front that they are too busy for gracious rejections.

Point is, I can now add to my repertoire, that boasts everything except biography, math text books, and poetry, another piece that may go nowhere. The good news: I now know I can do it. Is it what I want to be doing? Well last week it was.

Then there is the short story genre that until a month ago I hadn’t touched. I wrote two. Why? The ideas came knocking. I could have jotted a few notes and put them away for a dry day but why wait? Perhaps I crave things finishable in the midst of things never-ending. Perhaps it's the eggs in one basket anxiety.

I am not telling you this to show off, win the distracted writer of the year award, or make excuses for why the big projects remain unfinished. I just find the DCD phenomenon curious, and wonder whether this literary non-monogamy leaves me untrue to my own voice.

Am I just a genre slut? And will this behavior get me somewhere? Will I follow my gut, pretend it’s my heart, and assume there is no important distinction between the two that I am foolishly overlooking?

The other day my friend Lola and I were discussing the ever-present  “How’s the writing going?” question. Well intentioned, it comes our way frequently. I tend to go on about memoir, blog, novel, bla bla bla. People either seem satisfied, or zone out halfway through the list. It’s hard to know which. Lola is going through an intense period of loss and grieving. The bulk of her writing is taking place in her head. Despite the fact people are aware of this, they still ask “How’s the writing going?” She suspects that “it has yet to hit the page” may be short of clear and less than satisfying. But we agreed she needs a quick response to keep them at bay.

I took the moment to leap into poetry, where I don’t expect to stay long (you will understand why) and sent this to Lola:


roses are red

"how's your book going?" leaves you bluish

just hand them a line

and they'll assume it is true-ish




Yes, I was actually asked that question last night. Like...what, in the last week or so? I tend to stick with the genres of memoir and personal essay, and feel inadequate about it because I am NOT out there penning short stories or a novel (yet). Maybe one day I'll relinquish control to a character, but so far I haven't met one I like well enough.


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