Some days life seems overwhelming. I’ve had a few days like that lately. You know the drill – task list longer than your arm, only to find you can’t decide which task to do first. So you do none.
Multitasking isn’t a new concept for me. With many varied interests and a mild case of ADD (if such a thing can be mild), I’ve always been easily distracted. I’ve spent a career as a scientist, but even within that realm I’ve zigzagged through specialties as I’ve hopped from one firm to another. Marine biology? Covered! Aquatic toxicology? Got it! Pesticides? Chemicals? Food and Drug? Effluents? Ocean disposal sediments? Check, check, check, check. Zoology, Botany, Physiology, Anatomy, Ecology? Yup, and more. Adaptability kept me employed despite periodic company upheavals, layoffs, job hopping. Need me in Brussels? Where’s my ticket? Edinburgh? I’m there. I’ve fallen a lot professionally, but I always found a way to fall upward. Well, mostly always.
Of course, a career of science didn’t keep me away from my second career as an Abraham Lincoln nut. Early on in my life I became enamored of our 16th president, which made me the odd-man-out in my revolutionary war-focused neighborhood. I’m not sure what attracted me to him – maybe his honesty, integrity, ability to read the public sentiment, really tall hat – but I started reading about him when I was very young. How young, I don’t recall, which means it was very very young. I do remember reading Jim Bishop’s book The Day Lincoln was Shot, and of course Carl Sandburg’s The Prairie Years and the War Years. And many more. Now I’m focused on my Lincoln studies as Vice President of the Lincoln Group of DC and Board member of the Abraham Lincoln Institute. I’ve written one book on Abraham Lincoln (two if you include an Amazon e-book) and am working on two others. Lincoln activities consume many of my days (including today; I leave shortly to attend a lecture by a fellow Lincoln historian).
Ah, but then there is the travel. I call my home website Science Traveler. After living and working in Brussels for three years, traveling as much as work and pocketbook would allow, I got the travel bug. I even quit my job a few years later to focus on writing and traveling (and writing about traveling). I recently returned from a road trip, am flying off again soon to board a ship, after which I have another road trip, then yet another road trip, then a few more before flying off again. In the next 12 months I should be on as many as six continents. Planning and doing takes a lot of time.
I just found myself exhaling a huge sigh, right after realizing that the monologue above doesn’t even include my writing. I have one primary major book on Lincoln I’m working on, but there is also a secondary Lincoln book I’m just getting started (I’ll be editing a compendium volume). Oh, and my first Bill Bryson-esque travel memoir, a road trip through Argentina’s Patagonia, that will be the first of my science traveling series. I’m also starting to plot out the research for my “next” book, assuming I can stay focused long enough to get the current book(s) written.
There’s more – a lot more – but you get the idea.
As the title of this piece notes, I’m stretched thin in every way except height and weight. My “to do” list not only keeps expanding, it has stretched into multiple pages. For every item I cross off there are a half dozen I add. Something has to change. I’m just not sure what.
Meanwhile, I’m a bit lost. My writing has suffered because I’m trying to juggle too many things at once (including actual juggling; I recently set a new continuous run record of over 1300 balls without a drop). Rather than work on the next chapter of my Lincoln book I can’t seem to stop adding to and editing an already-way-too-long current chapter. Getting into a writing routine is hard when my days are split among so many different interests and obligations. To make matters worse, WordPress has suddenly stopped their “Daily Prompt” page, which was so often a stimulus to what I wrote here on Hot White Snow. Now I’m wondering if I should find an alternative daily prompt or if I should redirect my energies and the focus of this page in another direction. Some of the pieces here have been “memoir,” relating stories from my life. I’ve posted about my travels, my family, my “50 Objects,” and my research. I have a section called “On Writing” where I offer advice on the writing life. Others are random creative pieces stimulated by the prompt.
Like my life, Hot White Snow has become a little bit of everything. Perhaps both need more focus. But in what direction?
I’m stretched thin and lost. How shall I find myself?
David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.