This is what my iMac desktop looks like right now, which is a pretty good reflection of what it looks like at any given time. I don’t work linearly on any art project. It’s really hard for me to focus on one thing and do only that. Working digitally in illustration, it makes it easy for me to shift from one thing to another, keeping my brain from getting distracted, because I’m refocusing on something “new” every few minutes.
For example, I’ll color an entire panel in one window, move to another to draw a character, then move to another to add shading. I keep moving in this rotation until one of those pages is finished, then open another file to replace it in the workflow mix. This way, I’m constantly working, but also completing parts along the way, so I have a vague sense of fulfillment.
Of course, writing doesn’t work the same way. I’ve found the most time I can spend focusing on writing just one thing is maybe about two hours. After that, my brain goes soft and my body actually becomes uncomfortable. For most assignments, this works fine, as I can crank out a 500-to-1000 word piece in a few hours. But for longer-form works such as novels/screenplays/comics, it means I can only work in short bursts, and it forces me to lose time getting back into the project in question whenever I return to it. By contrast, I can usually open an art project and immediately dive into it, even half-asleep (it happens, often).
This is all a pretty drastic change from my younger years, when I’d spend hours and hours writing, or stay up all night composing a single piece of music. Of course, that was in the early days of the World Wide Web, and before widespread cell phone adoption, when we weren’t all so easily distracted, nor being constantly barraged by text messages, emails, Tweets, etc.
One day, I’d love to feel caught up enough to have the time to shut everything off and really just zoom in on one thing at a time. To labor over a drawing, or the nuances of a song, or the rhythmic flow of a sentence. I’m sure it’ll happen. I just hope it’s while I’m still young enough for it to matter.