Shards and scraps

I'm working on the novel a bit today. But I stopped to revise a poem while the words were fresh. I have two books partially read for reviews, another waiting attention for a blurb. And I must plan tomorrow's class. And winnow down that big pile of manuscripts for the first of three contests I'm judging over the next six weeks.
How to focus!
It seems so much like piecing. I remember both grandmothers making quilts, cutting all those tiny scraps from outgrown dresses or remnants from other projects. Triangles and squares cut then sewn into larger patterns, and then those blocks assembled into one great project to fling across a bed. They kept those grand patterns in mind as they interrupted their work for the hundred other tasks of a day around farm and home and garden and children. The color and order must have given their minds a place to settle when everything was in a whirl.
How to keep it all in mind!
And I think of my many years as a reporter, never with the luxury to work on one thing at one time. Daily stories and "the daily log" of small crimes, as well as columns, Sunday features, investigative projects, always interrupted by the press of breaking news. Each story assembling bit by bit, as an interview was completed or a courthouse file read. 
I've read that women are particularly good at piece work and detail work, at gathering, at continuing through interruption. Which came first? This ability to juggle, or tasks that would make it necessary? The multitasking brain or the requirements of a complex life?
Ah, for the luxury of the 19th-century male authors who had "a living" and a wife to keep the household for them, so that they could focus on the great work!
Still, we know Jane Austen assembled her intricate novels from scraps hidden in the bottom of her sewing basket.
Scraps and shards, but they can make a lovely whole.

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