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12-09 - M.L. Buchman

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Blur—Is It Harming Our Ability To Focus?

 Once upon a time, fall was the dividing line between summer vacation and school. Now most schools resume in August, nipping at summer’s heels. This divide has been blurred, if not erased. In the white-collar world, weekends and vacations were once held sacrosanct, a time for family, friends, and rejuvenation, not to be interrupted except for a true emergency. Now I see my nieces and nephews tethered to their jobs nights, weekends and vacation days by cell phones and laptops. The divide between their work lives and private lives has vanished.

Do shorter summer breaks make our young students smarter? Does the inability to escape professional demands for short time periods make us more productive?

Perhaps I’m just not good at multi-tasking. Maybe it’s a defect that I long for those old-time borders that are not crossed without good reason. As an author, I wish peer and publisher expectations would give writers a little more slack to disappear from social media for weeks at a time to write. Perhaps then the promotion, when it comes, would be more exuberant, more creative. But it’s now considered a no-no for authors to hibernate for weeks (and certainly not months) to focus on drafting or fine-tuning a manuscript. To be successful, we’re told we must spend time every day—or at least several times a week—on social networking and promotion.  And, if we do take a creative sabbatical or vacation, we must apologize for our absence on social media, our failure to re-tweet, share posts, comment on blogs.

I just attended a Writers Police Academy (a terrific experience), and one of the speakers was Dr. Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychologist and the author of more than 40 books, many relating to how our minds work. In her presentation, Dr. Ramsland said only one percent of people can genuinely multitask. What's more, she noted that habitual attempts at multitasking can damage our ability to focus and concentrate.

Since I'm writing a blog, I obviously believe in participating in social media. However, how much time should be devoted to it is a question I need to answer. How many of you (authors or other professionals) would like to disconnect from social media for a stretch of time—with no apologies—to concentrate on creative endeavors? If this is one of your daydreams, what’s stopping you? Would your networking/promotional efforts truly suffer if you took the occasional sabbatical?

 

15 comments:

Maggie Bishop said...

Serial focused time is much better than multi-tasking. Much as I love a party (multi-tasking), my work is better when all other thoughts are simply running in the background while I concentrate on the story unfolding from my fingertips.
Thanks Linda for the article.

Polly Iyer said...

I think it's necessary to organize your promo with a time restriction. Do Facebook or Twitter at a specific time each day, or set aside a few minutes during the day to hit on whichever promotional activity you choose. If you can do it more than once, great. You can make your presence known in a few minutes and be done with it. This is a different publishing world now, and writing a good book isn't enough. The competition is too strong. Sorry, but it's the cold hard fact. For your information, I don't like it either. But I do it.

Robin Weaver said...

Great blog, Linda. Now I understand why I'm in a constant fog. I'm blaming it on years of multitasking. :-)

Cathy Perkins said...

Most of us have been multitasking - kids, day job, house, etc - for so long it's second nature. Layering on something we're passionate about - writing - doesn't seem difficult, but social media on top of everything else can be challenging. Current publishing demands it, so we do it. I should be editing right now :) Waiting on the caffeine to kick it.

Judith Ashley said...

Romancing The Genres was founded as a way to meet the social media demands of today's publishing marketplace and yet provide the writer time to focus on writing. We each post once a month but there is new content six days a week. I may have a FB page but I don't show up there every day - usually a couple of times a month and then it is to join in recent discussions and to promote our guests, an RTG post that struck me more than most, my own post, or our Free Reads From The Genre-istas site.

While I do understand the pressure to be visibly active on social media the first order of business remains writing because there isn't anything to promote without taking the time to do that.

What's important from my perspective is that I'm in control of my social media involvement not the other way around.

Christy Tillery French said...

I agree with Cathy - most of us have been multitasking for so long, it is second nature. And writing was easier years ago before the internet and social media. Now my time is divided between writing, editing and promoting on the internet. There aren't enough hours in the day...

Susan M. Boyer said...

Oh, Linda, I am so not a part of the one percent who are good at multi-tasking. Oh course, I did it for years when the kids were younger, but honestly, I never felt like I was doing anything as well as I would like--as well as I could if I could just focus on one thing at a time.

The only way I can handle it now is to do as Polly suggests--isolate tasks and focus on what I'm doing. I don't attempt to write while keeping Twitter and Facebook open. In fact, when I write, I disconnect from the Internet entirely inless there's something I need to research.

Then, for a while, usally twice a day, I give social media my undivivded attention.

But, when we go on vacation, we are on vacation. We usually choose someplace with no Internet access, and preferably no cell signal.

Great post!

Linda Lovely said...

Sorry, I haven't chimed in earlier. I was multi-tasking *g*--doing a presentation for the Osher Lifelong Learing Institute on what I learned at the Writers Police Academy. I hear what you're saying, Polly. However, there are times when I really need to "disconnect" and concentrate on my writing for at least several days at a time. Judith, that's one reason, I truly appreciate this blog as a life-saver. Once a month is doable!

Christy Carlyle said...

Linda - This is a WONDERFUL blog post. Thank you. Since women are renowned for their multi-tasking skills and I tend to do too much and get overwhelmed, my husband teases that I didn't inherit that female gene. I so agree with the notion of taking time out, away from constant interaction online, etc., to refill the creative tank and write. Now I just have to take the time and do it! :)

Linda Lovely said...

Christy, I know how many balls you have in the air, so I have to believe you're great at juggling. But, I agree that we all need sabbaticals to "refill the creative tank." Thanks for commenting.

D. McCollum D. McCollum said...

I like taking at least one day off from the internet and social media each week. It gives my mind a break, that I sorely need. and as you said, "it refills the creative tank". Authors are asked to do so much more in the way of marketing compared to even ten years ago. Hard to find that time to write unless you are very organized. Great post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree that taking a day off the net once and a while is really important. I multi-task too. I try to write every day but social networking does get in the way. Still, if asked to comment on a blog, I rarely can refuse.

Linda Lovely said...

I think this is an individual thing. Some folks can set aside a specific time each day, but that doesn't seem to work for me. I really like D. McCollum's idea of taking off a specific day or days of the week that are Internet free. I'm going to give this a whirl. A day where nothing is allowed to interfere with my writing.

Linda Lovely said...

Jacqueline, I try to comment on blogs, too. But I think my problem is that I’m on too many loops. By the time I read all of the posts and visit all the blogs, half the day may be gone. I think I need to whittle down my loops so I’m not so scattered and then participate where I stay.

Sarah Raplee said...

I call myself a Facebook Zombie. Periodically, I come back to virtual life! LOL

I agree that taking control is important. I like the idea of setting a schedule. If we do just one thing a day (or several days a week), we're doing a lot more than nothing.

Participating in a group blog has been a wonderful way to connect with a lot of people. I'm so glad to be here!