Question of the Month: Divided Attention

by Susan Henderson on November 5, 2012

Tell me about something in your life that keeps you from giving your all to your current writing project.

This month, my manuscript took a back seat to my 16-year-old’s college application. He’s applying early to his first choice school, and on top of the time-consuming nature of applications—and having to balance them with a full course load of regular school work and outside activities—I was seeing him grapple with something I know all too well: self-doubt. How can I capture who I am on a piece of paper? What if I put every ounce of who I am into this thing, and it’s not good enough? What if I’ve misjudged my abilities and I don’t get into any college at all?

The good news is that this early application is now done, and I think he’ll be a strong candidate, though I understand the odds at these top schools. My son is hoping to study theoretical math in college, and luckily, they allow multi-media supplements to the application, where kids can communicate what doesn’t fit as easily into words.

Here is how he told the story of his crazy Moog project that’s made such a mess of his room and our basement:

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And here are two examples of different keyboard playing styles (first ELP’s Tarkus, and then Deep Purple’s Lazy) which he needed to submit in order to take electives in the music department:

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I know I set aside my own work again and again to tend to my son’s project and the emotions that came with it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. The period of childhood is precious and brief, and I want to be fully engaged in it. For all of you whose children are in this same process, much luck to you. And for you writers who know rejection and self-doubt so very well, much love.


Some thank you’s for the links and press this month: Huffington Post, Ragnh, the Star Tribune, Great New Books, and People Magazine. Hope you’re all enjoying fall (my favorite season!), and I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.