Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Multitasking Can Ruin Your Writing: Frankie say Relax, Don't Do It

What distractions plagued Shakespeare while he penned Hamlet?

Multitasking allows you to screw up several things at once.

                                                                     Internet wisdom

Every morning, at my own choosing, I enter a multitasking hell scape.

To wit: I get up, make a cup of coffee, grab a breakfast bar, head into my cave, sit back in my recliner, and get the day going. It isn't hard to multitask eating, drinking coffee, and reading/writing; my mistake is turning on the television.

See, I'm a news junkie; I can't help myself. Those are my friends up there on that 47-inch, High Def, flat screen and they need me as much as I need them. I've been visiting with them for years and for some reason the political prattle they stuff into my brain satisfies an insatiable hunger to know everything and know it now.

And it's not helpful that while Morning Joe and his cronies are chuckling and yelling, accusing and revealing, that across the bottom of the screen runs a continuous stream of yet more information about politics, entertainment, the economy, and sports. And I have a new camera I use on these blogs that I'm trying to figure out this morning and still follow Twitter protocol and what was that first, all-important line of the story I was going to start? Oh, and my editor--what about her? She's had the manuscript for my new novel for two weeks and I haven't heart a thing. Is that the cat crying in the kitchen?

So here I go: My pulse begins to race as my overheating brain follows my twitching, blinking eyes as they dart back and forth, up and down, among the irresistible choices. A bigger-than-life pretty woman towers over me imploring, the stock market took a hit yesterday (Damn, I should have moved those funds.), some drunk, jackass t.v. star killed himself in a traffic accident, all the while, my laptop--on my lap-- beckons with its own images and news that I just can't afford to miss......

Long ago when I was a college student studying human cognition and linguistics and psychology and stuff like that, I was taught that our brains cannot--simply cannot--focus on more than one task at a time. You have one consciousness, one awareness, one you, and that you is very jealous of its grip on your attention.

So, when you multitask, you are in fact forcing your conscious self to flit, with more less efficiency, among the many siren choices. Some of us are good at it, I guess. We can focus, however briefly, on one stimulus, process it, assess it, store in in our long-term retrieval memory banks, and then move ever so quickly on to the next, do the same, move on again. Let's call it flash processing.

But even the best of us, those of us with great flash processing gifts, suffer the consequences of TMI coming at us too fast. Picture Shakespeare, on the other hand, hard at work on Hamlet. What distractions did he have to deal with? A rooster crowing in the court yard? A bucket of slops being poured onto the street from a second floor window? A cockroach nibbling at his breakfast cheese? A bothersome louse picking at his scalp? Minor stuff, I think, compared to the modern misery of this screeching, pounding, flickering digital age. No wonder he produced the most wonderful literature, and with a quill pen and a pot of ink at that.

So, summoning all my resources and having given the pundits their due, I gratefully, guiltily, hit the off button on the remote. I feed the insistent cat, get a third cup of coffee, retrieve my second breakfast bar from between the arm of the recliner and the seat cushion, and settle in to--write this blog.

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