Clank clank, that’s the sound of my brain working on the chain gang

May 22, 2007

Or maybe it’s just the sound of my brain trying to change gears. It’s got a few too many speeds that I want it to operate on right now, and I’m not sure which ones to cut out. For instance, last night I tried to mix a session of poetry with a short burst of fiction. Probably because I’ve been trying to get my writing brain into fiction mode for the past week or two, the poetry part was the least productive. Like, painfully unproductive except for the fact that I was so please with myself just for sitting down and doing it that it took the edge off. So, although I realize the evidence is far from completely assembled, I’m wondering if I need to just focus on one genre for the whole summer (not really realistic, but a thought) or if I just need to get better at switching back and forth.

Speaking of switching back and forth, it seems these days I tend to forget the field my future job will theoretically be in is the one I usually want to switch away from. As in, right now I have my tabbed browser opened up to my Gmail, the course website for my one and only library class this summer, the NY Times, and of course this blog. Even though today is the last day of my first grading week, and I’m pretty sure I have a couple of discussion board comments due tonight by midnight, I haven’t made it through even one quarter of the assigned reading for this week. Not for lack of time, just for lack of effort. It’s not that this really bothers me–I’ve pretty much adopted a no reading policy for library classes anyway–but it kind of alarms me that it doesn’t bother me. Grades are only the first step, right? When I graduate in a year, or when I take my first steps out into the job market in about six months, I’ll need to something more than grades to prove that I was using my internship productively, like a person who had something to contribute to the library field. Such as it is. I guess on this level I can totally relate to D and his procrastination of accounting homework… I just happened to pick a ridiculously easy field in which to procrastinate, and he picked a hard one with final exams and right and wrong answers.

(Then again, can you really take a school seriously that needs to shut down its servers on a regular basis, take all the student records off, and then put them back on again, thereby erasing the online portfolio you’ve started building for your current class? Not just once in a while, like twice a semester. We pay you people to do what, exactly?)

Basically, my work day is on a loop: thirty seconds of work, thirty seconds of reading text book, thirty seconds of some random interesting article, check email, repeat.

Multi-tasking: power tool or crack? I’m leaning toward the crack side, because I swear it’s getting harder for me to concentrate the more I get used to constantly switching thoughts. It’s hard to tell whether this started out as a boredom avoidance technique and was merely enabled by tabbed browsing and other technological media consumption binges or if it was actually caused by tabbed browsing. Either way, I think I can feel my brain wanting to switch thoughts every thirty seconds, even when I’m not in front of a computer. Frightening, seeing as at least one of my degrees requires me to bring sustained attention to bear upon dense literary texts. Am I turning myself ADD?

If not ADD, then perhaps just expressing symptoms of chronic indecision. Because if I multi-task, if I do a little of this followed by a little of that with a dab of something totally different, I never really have to decide what I’m trying to do with my time, exactly. I never have to say, now I’m a poet and not a fiction writer. I never have to say now I’m a librarian and not a wannabe English Phd student. I never have to say now I’m dedicated to building a career and now I’m just an average human being, going whichever way the beer flows. Is that a neat trick or self-handicapping in the long?

Or, a third option: it could be that it’s 4:48pm on a Tuesday, the last Tuesday of Veronica Mars ever, and there’s a big long list of things I don’t want to think about yet kind of have to and a much more enticing short list of things I do want to think about, and I’m just splitting the difference until the right time comes along to make some things off of the second list actually happen.

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One Response to “Clank clank, that’s the sound of my brain working on the chain gang”

  1. AH Says:

    I go with what’s behind door number 3. But if you want Time Magazine’s opinion (from last year, but still): “Decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks.” (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174696,00.html)

    Oh no! Time to panic, I guess. Or not. I think, if it’s done on the clock it doesn’t actually count. That’s my brilliant analysis. At least, it doesn’t count until we’re all safely ensconced in our “real” careers.

    This is terrible advice.

    On a different note, you win, hands-down, for most awesomest post titles.


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