One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.Read the whole thing. Sometimes I catch myself woolgathering over novel ideas, gathering snips and snatches of ideas that I think would make for a good book. I shuffle such fanciful thinking aside pretty quickly. Ostensibly, I'd like to achieve some success with my short fiction before moving on to longer forms; one feels better about skinning up his compositional knees, so to speak, when the word count is smaller. But there's also this nagging doubt that keeps yanking on my hair and whispering rude things into my ear: Could I concentrate long enough to finish it? Reading The Lord of the Rings in the one-volume edition that Tolkien intended or diving into George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series feels a bit daunting right now. And if reading for extended periods is challenging, mustn't writing must be even more so?
The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties -- something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture -- and, in the process, we don't allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.
(Picture: CC 2005 by Tim Cummins; Hat Tip: Brandywine Books)