Sunday, September 8, 2013

Scatterbrain

I just wrote a comment on Facebook that, if memory serves, was an imitation of something E.B. White wrote in one of his letters. It made me want to pick up Letters of E.B. White, a book everyone should read. I'm already re-reading Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto which is also great. I've got a book of poetry, Carl Dennis's Ranking the Wishes, that I'm halfway through. I've had Thoreau's Walden at my bedside and dip into a page or two most every night. And I have a book from the library waiting for my attention.

Meanwhile, it's Sunday and The New York Times awaits my attention. There are several articles (including an Atul Gawande monster from The New Yorker) that are waiting on my phone and tablet. Friends will, over the next few days, send several dozen links to things I'll want to read. And I will find all kinds of tech reading I'll want to get into.

I've been this way forever, flitting about, interested in all this different stuff. I am jack of so many trades but master of so few. I just love to learn things.

I've written about my need to move forward in life, to get out of the school system in which I teach and perhaps get out of teaching altogether. It's a risk to put that out in public where people will wonder, what the hell happened? Why didn't you do anything? That's why I publish these things, to challenge myself to change and to stay with things more intently.

With writing I've begun that. I write every day and publish most every day. I've got some more intense goals, things to stretch my writing, and I'm getting into them. The biggest thing is to finish pieces rather than having half a dozen half baked and left to rot.

My reading habits had me thinking about that. One way forward would be to choose one book and set the others aside. Go through one-by-one. It's not a terrible solution but it exchanges one problem for another. Instead of reading ten things at once, I read one and nine others pile up. Either way, I have a ton of things unread and waiting. A better solution is to focus more time and attention on reading. Half an hour a day. There are plenty of things I do for half an hour that aren't making me as happy as reading.

The transformation is from letting time pass to being aware and present in time. I don't have to be productive every second. That kind of mania sets me backward. Instead, I need to notice what I'm doing, how I feel, and decide what I want to do.

Today that means thinking whether or not I'm enjoying an NFL game. If I am, fine. If not, turn it off.

I like what I'm doing now, writing this piece. It puts me in a mood to go forward. So I'm going to keep going with it. I'm not scatterbrained when I write, following a string across the room of my thoughts, between chair legs, under the table, out the door and down the hallway of memory. Writing focuses me.

I like both ways of being. Scatterbrained is being interested in everything. Writing is focusing on finishing one thing. There's a balance and the best way to find it is to write on.