Dear Angie,

As usual, I’m having trouble focusing. It’s the last day of the week that I can devote completely to my writing, and yet the gravity of that does little to motivate me. I should be taking full advantage of this day to myself, but instead I am resisting the temptations of the internet, television, and a nap. This is no easy feat — all are well within my reach. But I figure that writing to you, while not technically something that will advance my career as an author, is more productive than any of the alternatives. At least it’s writing, right?

Do you ever have trouble getting yourself to sit down and concentrate on a single task? I recently read an Atlantic Monthly article that discussed whether or not “Google is making us stupid.” It argues that modern media (the internet in particular) has reduced everything to snippets, meaning that we grow accustomed to reading, hearing, and watching information in short bursts and thus have lost our ability to stay engaged with longer works. I can’t say for sure if that’s true, but I do know that I am working in one, two, three… eight different windows on my computer screen right now. How’s that for short attention span?

(The article goes on to talk about a great many things related to how reading different types of materials — long, short, ideograms like Chinese characters, etc. — affects the circuitry of our brains, and how perhaps what we input to our minds affects what we output. It’s all very fascinating. You can, ironically, Google it to read the whole thing.)

I remember when we took World History together in our junior year of high school, and our teacher told us that unlike most teachers, she would never yell at us for doing “off-task” things in class. She said that if we were smart enough to be in her honors class, then she trusted us to multi-task. We’d only get in trouble if we didn’t do our homework or weren’t able to answer a question that she asked us.

At the time, I thought that was extremely cool and forward-thinking of her. She understood the way we worked! But now I can’t help wondering if our ability to multi-task is really a blessing in disguise. For me, doing more than one thing at a time usually means I’m just not doing any of those things very well. I think I’d rather be a master of one trade than a jack of them all.

But can I re-train myself to focus on a single task and finish it before I go on to the next?

Well, I wrote this letter to you in one sitting. I don’t think it means that I’m cured, but I think it’s a sign that the diagnosis is correct and the medicine may be starting to work.

Now that that’s off my chest, I should probably return to my writing…

Much love,
Kristan


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