Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Skimmers and Divers

Jenny’s post, Hold the Croutons, over at The Writing Bug on Monday asks the question about how you approach the salad bar – a little bit of everything or a lot of one thing. Whether you read one book at a time or keep your bookmark in several. Whether you have one writing project at a time or work on many.


Which made me think about all the books I’ve started, all the crochet and knitting projects begun, and all the writing projects I’m juggling right now.

When I was in my twenties I went through a period of trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d quit my job at a newspaper, unable to live with the management’s unethical practices any longer. My decision about where to seek employment felt important; I wanted my search to result in work I loved.

In the course of researching jobs, I read several books on aptitude and working styles. One of them – don’t remember which, but I’d like to know – talked about skimmers versus divers.

Skimmers are the ones who read several books at once and have lots of projects going on at the same time. Divers start something and see it through to the end. Divers become experts, devoting large amounts of time, even their whole lives, to learning everything there is to know about one or two particular things. They become master craftsmen, the scientist who focuses on monitor lizards for decades – or that crazy lady down the street who can tell you everything there is to know about Coca Cola or Hummel figurines.

Skimmers learn just what they need to know about something and then move on to the next thing.

I’m a skimmer. Usually I spell that ADHD “dilettante.” Funny how the definition of dilettante is “a dabbler in an art or field of knowledge, a lover of fine arts, a connoisseur,” yet the synonyms for the adjective include terms like half-assed, half-baked, shallow, and superficial.

Hrm. Well, however you spell it, I love being a skimmer. Of course, if I were a diver, I’d probably love that. But I find the skimmer mindset helps me as a writer. I’m fascinated by all my research, but not so hooked into any of it that I can’t move on to the next bit. The cyclical nature of writing books, living in the seasons, and indulging in a number of creative pursuits keeps me from becoming bored.

Not only is being a skimmer good for research and the beginning/middle/end aspect of writing projects, it helps with all the additional hats a writer has to wear, including editor, marketer, pitchman, blogger, secretary, and accountant.

Half-baked? Maybe. Superficial? To a degree. Well rounded? Let’s say yes and just hope it’s true.

Are you a skimmer or a diver?


  1. Love the skimmer/diver comparison. I am a skimmer but I occasionally pretend I'm a diver.

    As a regular reader of your blog, I can say that if you're not well-rounded, there's no hope for the rest of us.

    Thanks for mentioning my post!

  2. I am definitely a skimmer! I always have several books going at once--I have to! And I can go back months later, find my neglected bookmark and restart with fresh enthusiasm. Barbara Sher, in "Refuse to Choose," writes about scanners and specialists. Her book gave me encouragement about being the way I am.
    I just found your site yesterday, through skimming and scanning my way through blogs, and I love your writing! Now I'm on the hunt for your books! I've enjoyed the posts that I've read--especially about the hourglass--I've just started using this for decluttering and it is working! Today I just had to join the conversation! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I'm definitely a skimmer. Those of us who have eclectic interests are easily distracted.


  4. Great post. Love the ADHD... ahem, dilettante... comment. Been there... still am. I'm both a skimmer and a diver. I'll skim and flit about like a humming bird in a garden until I happen across something that grabs me, and then I dive in, more like a loon into a lake. (And, yes, at times I'm a bit looney). But, the best part of your post, Cricket, is that you remind us we're free to be whatever we are. Thanks. God bless you.

  5. Jenny, I love your posts! Thanks for the inspiration.

    Welcome, Linda! I like Barbara Sher's books a lot -- plenty of good advice in them. Good luck with the decluttering.

    Pat, you make it sound so genteel, being eclectic and all. ; - )

    Diana, thanks for the kind words. Loons rock!