Soon I’m hoping to have a regular roster of guest bloggers on my site. These will include authors with books coming out, agents and editors if I can get them, and other people with something important to say that is about writing, reading or living.

But until then, you’re stuck with me.

Susanne Dunlap Young Adult Historical Fiction

Published by Bloomsbury

[My three YA books! With space for the 4th.]

So today, I thought I’d comment on the idea of multi-tasking, since it’s been brought up to me in stark relief both by a post on MJ Rose’s wonderful publishing blog, Buzz, Balls and Hype, and because it’s what I seem to do all day, every day, even though I’ve rid myself of a strenuous and stressful day job.

When was it that we, as a society, became convinced that doing one thing at a time was a bad idea? Even watching TV, the ultimate space-out activity, we are constantly bombarded with messages that deflect our attention from the drama at hand: those little popups that advertise upcoming shows, for instance. And don’t get me started on the tickers that drive my eyes crazy on the news channels. I don’t care what anyone claims: our brains weren’t made to take in more than one piece of information at a time. If I’m reading, I’m not listening.

Of course, what’s really happening is that we’re flitting back and forth so fast between the two or more messages that we’re hardly aware of it. This means we’re gradually being pushed into having the attention spans of toddlers. What happened to the hours of contemplation and reflection that intelligent people once cherished?

Reading a book, a real, printed book, is one way to get used to focusing completely on one thing and expanding your attention span. I haven’t done the research, I’m not a psychologist, but I know from my own experience that the more I read, the calmer, more focused I become.

Enter e-readers. Now, I embrace these. I think anything that makes it easier to have quality reading material at your fingertips at a given time is a good thing. But if we’re reading on our iPhones or computers (as I do), then chances are we’re flitting around, checking email, listening for those little “dings!” that say a message has come in etc. Perhaps that’s an argument for a dedicated device like a Kindle or a Nook.

This isn’t to say e-readers are starting a dangerous trend, only that they potentially reinforce this insane obsession with multi-tasking that commands our daily lives.

So time to stop this task and on to another. I’ll probably flit back and forth between the two manuscripts I’m working on, answer emails, think about business, worry about the things I haven’t done, do my laundry and vacuum my apartment.

Not all at once, though.

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