This last week I’ve been watching M*A*S*H on Hulu. Did you know that it was finally streaming online? I’m quite excited. Since we killed any access to regular television years ago, I haven’t been able to watch this show. It’s a mainstay, for heaven’s sake. Heck, I remember my college dorm room filling up every evening at 10:30 so we could watch the reruns before heading back to our studies.
Anyway … as I watched an episode where Hawkeye wrote a letter to his father, the silliest thing stuck out at me. He was on a helicopter, dressed as Santa Claus, heading to take care of a wounded man in the middle of the battle. Before he was lowered to the ground, he packed up his notebook. During the entire helicopter ride, he’d been writing.
I can’t do that. I would be watching everything that happened around me, taking in the vistas, while worrying about being lowered into a war-zone, no less.
My brother tells me that he can write anywhere. And he does. While his family watches television, he sits with them in the living room and writes. He travels to go camping and in the middle of God’s glorious creation, he writes.
I can’t do that. Television captures my attention, but spending time outdoors? I look at everything around me, getting lost in its sights and sounds. I can’t focus on words that must be typed, I’m too happily distracted by everything else. This morning I went out to the front porch to grab some boxes and was lost to it all as I watched two fawns and their mother travel from the hillside to down to the river. You’d think that after they were gone, I’d turn back to my task. Oh no, I was entranced by the quite-familiar beauty of my surroundings. I’m useless in the face of nature.
The strange thing is, I am the queen of multi-tasking. I set a million things in motion at the same time so that I can accomplish as much as possible in this short life I’ve been given. I’ve always been like this.
As I think about it, I remember practicing for a piano contest when I was in high school. I had to memorize the piece I would perform. At some point in my preparation, I had the music well enough in hand that my fingers could play it without a lot of thought from me. So to ensure that no matter what happened during the performance, I wouldn’t lose my place, I began setting a novel on the piano and I’d read while playing through the song. If I could do that, I wasn’t worried about getting lost in the middle of the performance.
There are plenty of authors who offer playlists of the music they listen to while they write. As much as I love music – there really isn’t a genre that I don’t love – I’m unable to listen while writing because I am so easily distracted. I find myself stopping to hear what is happening in the music.
I can do everything else in my life while listening to music or watching television, but I can’t write.
This is why I do my writing late at night sitting at the same place every time – at my desk. The desk has to be cleared of all except the few things I leave in place. Anything else will grab my attention. I need absolute quiet or I will pay attention to whatever is making noise or sound. Because I learned to type simply by touch, I often close my eyes as I tell the story to my fingers. I play the piano that way as well – with my eyes closed. I’d rather shut everything else out and just let the music come from my fingers.
Sure, there are mistakes, both in my typing and in my music, but I’d rather make mistakes that can be corrected than lose my concentration.
I’m a conundrum … but I’ll tell you that to write this post, I had to turn M*A*S*H off for just a few minutes, and I spent most of the time typing with my eyes closed.
My paperbacks have arrived and I’m madly packing them for shipping. This is the last big task that I have around publishing. I will soon set Book 22 aside as my focus moves forward. I can hardly wait.
Book 23 will be published September 25th.