Giving “Attention” Where Attention is Due; Or Learning to Live With the Third Life

Or something like that. One of the regular readers of this blog, Susan-the-Brewess (who, like me, lives in Iowa), just sent me a link to an article about “attention” and distraction.

The piece, in New York Magazine, ran last May. I read it then, but thanks to Susan’s email, I just re-read it. And it’s worth reading (assuming, ahem, you’re interested in things like why the HELL does life feel so different than it did ten years ago?

I mean, didn’t things used to move at a less frantic pace??) An interesting companion piece of sorts, by the way, is this short article in today’s New York Times about the dangers of texting while driving. The short version: It’s dangerous. Don’t do it. (Please. As someone who is constantly dogging distracted cellphone-using drivers who run red lights and stop signs, I’m BEGGING you to get off the fucking phone and pay attention to  driving.)

Anyway, I’m glad Susan sent me the link to the article because re-reading it inspires me to this thought: Why should I feel guilty about letting this blog slide for a bit right now?

I mean, I’m writing a book, for god’s sake, and as anyone who’s ever written a book will attest, it’s a task that requires long periods of focus and concentration.

It’s also worth noting this fact: I’m writing my fourth book. But this is the first one that will be research and written entirely in the presence of an online life. I only “discovered,” if you want to call it that, email and the ‘net about halfway through the process of writing my previous book (the one about beer).

Like most people, I was initially enamored of the online thing and, of course, distracted by it. That complicated the task of finishing the beer book. I’m not sure it slowed me down, but it definitely increased my stress level: I had to work longer hours to keep pace, because I was spending free time hanging out online. If that makes sense.

Anyway, when I started this book, I promised myself that I would create a better balance between “work,” my regular life (laundry errands, cooking, family, etc.), and the internet — and was shocked to realize that I’d begun thinking of internet/email/bogging as a third form of life. Not an appendage to the other “lives,” but a separate entity altogether.

Like most writers, the deeper I get into a book, the more I tune out the world around me. I stop socializing. Let the housework slide, etc. I’ve always done that, but it’s harder now because I’ve got this third life demanding my attention.

But right now, meaning this week and the next, well, by god, I’m at least gonna shrug off the guilt of ignoring Life Number Three. I have an inordinate number of things going on (not least of which is The Baby is coming to visit for a week) and I’ve hit a crucial point in the new book.

So, hey! Life Number Three, you’re just gonna have to get by without me for a week or two.

Now. You wait. I’ll find something fascinating or rant-inspiring and I’ll end up right back here, typing away, revealing my latest brainstorm to anyone who cares to read about it. Life. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

(Tip o’ the mug to Susan for the link to the New York piece.)

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