No Social Network Day 22: Longer Attention Span

I write in my head a lot. When I wrote novels more, I wrote whole chapters in my head. And when I took pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, rather, I’d change it all significantly. This blog post was actually something I wrote in an earlier post and took out. I had a few ideas during a call the other night, and wrote them down, and when I read them this morning, it jogged my memory about how I’d written about writing longer emails, but not about reading longer things.

The percolation of an idea is nice, but what’s really great is the first mental draft. As a writing technique, it takes the obvious and puts it in the trash. Will the heroine and the love interest meet up finally in chapter 3? Yes, at yoga. Then, when writing, no, it’s because he asks out the new temp in accounting and he gets stood up, leaves for a cafe, sits next to the heroine, who, all shiny and happy after yoga, commiserates with him over lamer dates.

Using social media, for one, there’s no mental drafts, and two, they’re small and shitty. It’s reduced my mental writing paper to a Post-It – the average room available from Twitter and Facebook.

As a reader- it’s not your fault. The way media comes at you determines your attention span, in a way. Imagine reading down the Facebook feed before you pour yourself a cup of coffee or open the mail. Then, imagine getting a personal letter in the mail. I literally savor those letters for some good couch & coffee time, and sometimes give it a first over read on the way up from the mailbox, then sit down to re-read. Email? Notsomuch. I noticed earlier on in this social-media-blackout that my email reading skills got a lot better. I started slowing down. I was basically over-estimating the sheer amount of stuff I could read and take in, in a day.

Now, I’m realizing as a writer, I’m slowing down. I’m expecting the reader to sit and give a bit more than the purported 3-second reading time (How much time people spend on Facebook statuses in their feed).

One aspect of the world being faster than me, that there’s a whole lot of junk out there. When it’s going by fast, you don’t really care, unless you get one or two good ones a day. And who wants to be judgmental of your aged aunt or niece anyway? In the ye old internet, you went out and found good stuff. So, I’ve started using Google Reader more, and my old and wonderful sites are still subscribed. Diary of a Bookslut, GoodReads, Jezebel, NYTimes Most Emailed Articles, etc. I’m in a la-la-land of good writing. This just makes me *feel* smarter. (*technical note: while Facebook has set up “subscriptions” it largely hasn’t been embraced by the areas of interest I follow)

As a creator-of-things, going fast is in a way a blessing and a curse. When you’re on the fifth chapter of Woodward’s Garden, you need to get yourself writing and “in the world.” It’s not hurried, but it is movement. Distraction is to avoided at all costs. I haven’t actually written since the first week of my social network diet, but I have created a ton of other things, and the overall “opening up of time” in my schedule is pretty awesome. My sister was worried I wasn’t coming back to Facebook, and I told her when (first typed “if”) it would be in proscribed amounts. It’s not like I knew all this time was being taken up, but it definitely was.

Picture 1: Classroom at Providence Saint Joseph School, Sprague, Washington, .
Picture 2: Passive Aggressive Notes.com

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