on multi-tasking — I mean, thinking

It has occurred to me more than once that it would be easier for me to impose some sort of order (*shudder*) on my blog posts if I restricted myself to a single topic for each. I blog the way I think, though, and I have to wonder, Do normal people really think just one thing at a time?

If you think my blog posts are slightly… chaotic (none of your lip, LR, unless you’re gonna explain that review comment), you should hear how I sound in person.  Well, not literally — as I’ve said before, I do not make public appearances — but nevertheless, anyone who has met me face-to-face could tell you that I have a tendency to… tangent.  They’d possibly even tell you that I’m prone to non sequiturs, except that implies no connection between topics, and that is far from accurate.  [There’s a quote from Sherlock that would be appropriate here, but I cannot remember it verbatim at the moment.  *shakes head*  Something about the listener not keeping up.] Trust me, there is always a connection.

This is in no way a claim to be smarter than other people just because I think differently from the majority.  For one thing, lots of people think this way; uncommon should not be mistaken for unique (and there’s a grammar lesson, if you want one:  nothing is “more unique” than something else; it’s either the only one of its kind, or it isn’t).  For another, having an uncommon way of looking at the world is not equivalent to having high intelligence (although it certainly would help a highly intelligent person make better use of that intelligence).  And… Let’s not talk about statistics today.  It’s too depressing.

Anyway.  Thinking about more than one thing at a time.  For years, it seems, some people have been trying to get everyone to think like a binary computer, because computers are so much smarter than humans, right?  (Bullshit, by the way.  Do you have any idea how much “computing power” is needed to run a human body?  If a computer had to do all the calculations needed for, say, walking, it wouldn’t have much left over for solving quadratic equations on the side.)  The thing is, people have been working for quite a while now toward creating computers that aren’t binary, either/or, yes/no in their thinking; quantum computers are where it’s at, computers that, instead of doing their calculations in a long linear string of yes/no, do it all at once and come up with varying values of maybe.  (I’m not explaining this properly for a discussion of quantum computers, and I don’t particularly want to; the computers themselves are not the point here.)  They want computers that think the way the human brain thinks.

So those of us who think more than one thing at once instead of trying to shove our thoughts into linear pigeonholes are probably not doing anything wrong after all.

(Also, this blog post brought to you in part by Angry Orchard hard cider.  My clone-sibling is off socializing with fellow anthropologists — yes, be afraid — and I have the house to myself.  And since he’s drinking Guinness at this very moment — I know because we’re mindlinked — and I’m going to feel the effects of that whether I have anything myself or not, I figured I may as well indulge in my own preferred alcohol-containing beverage of choice.  It’ll at least limit the options for viewpoint shift, right?)

[deleted lengthy tirade about sexist bullshit and the idiotic idea that gender determines multi-tasking ability]

True story about multi-tasking:  Many years ago, I had a job preparing sand and clay samples for someone’s scientific experiments with ground water filtration.  (Everyone in that lab was rather startled when they found out that I wasn’t an agricultural science major, and that my degree was in art, of all things.  Not supposed to understand the science stuff if you ain’t a science person.  :-P)  Although I wasn’t required to do so, I did a lot of multi-tasking, having one set of samples in the shaker while another was in the sonicator bath and a third was in the centrifuge.  This method left me with several minutes of free time during each hour, and it also caused me to get the whole process done much more quickly than expected.  The guy in charge of the lab had to keep finding more things for me to do, because I’d get done in less than half the expected time.  So I also hand-ground baked clay into coarse powder using a mortar and pestle.  And mixed 20-liter batches of nitric acid.  And used the nitric acid to removed all traces of organics from sand samples.  And they still didn’t have enough to keep me busy.

Anyway.  You don’t come to this blog because you want short and linear posts, do you?  Because if you do, oh, are you ever in the wrong place.

If you’ve read this far, though, you probably have a pretty good tolerance for nonlinear and strange.  🙂

You probably already know that, when it comes to writing, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter.  This is not to say that I don’t plan anything, but the planning stage happens in my head rather than on a page in a neat and tidy outline with Roman numerals and all.  (This is not because I lack the skill to make a neat and tidy outline with Roman numerals and all; like Matthew Quigley and a handgun, the fact that I don’t have much use for something doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use it.)  By the time I’m putting words on the page, I’ve already done at least two or three ‘drafts’ of the story, testing variations on plot and character and setting to have a better idea of where I want the story to go and how to get there.

And I don’t work on one story at a time.  Unless I’m up to my ears in getting a completed manuscript ready for publication (mine, my clone’s, or someone else’s — Mercenary Proofreader pays close attention when being Mercenary Proofreader), I’m working on several stories at once.  I have always been like this, even before I was seriously writing fiction with the intent to have it published.

It’s just the way my brain works.


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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6 Responses to on multi-tasking — I mean, thinking

  1. Mei-Mei says:

    Some of my posts are just on one topic; I write them more like essays. Then some are more rambling, stream-of-consciousness type stuff. I like doing both and alternating; I have no idea if my readers prefer one over the other.

    I work in the lab exactly how you did. The 5 min that samples are in the centrifuge are 5 min that I can prep the next samples/make an agarose gel/wash my tools, etc. It drives me nuts when someone can only do only thing at a time, in order. And there’s never a shortage of things for me to do at work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know which my readers prefer, either. They don’t tell me. On the other hand, the only time someone did comment on that (something along the lines of “I don’t get it”), my mental response was, “Not my problem.” 🙂 Readers can either be entertained by the chaos or go find something more to their own tastes, but I’m not going to slow down my own brain to suit a stranger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A seriously LOL post! (And your subsequent reply to the Mei-Mei.) Maybe you’ll like this: http://wp.me/p30cCH-p1

      BTW, thanks for the comment Like over at Nicholas Rossis’s blog! It’s cool to connect. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You pointed out something important in your comment on Nicholas’ blog: Even imagining dealing with stress that isn’t our own helps us deal with stress that DOES belong to us.

        I’d love to see someone do a study on whether or not immersive READING (reading and paying attention and thinking/feeling about the story) also has such benefits. I suspect it does — it does for me, at least — but it would be good to have a scientific study to back that up.

        It’s probably good for anyone to ‘mistake themselves for someone else’ (imagine that they are a character in a story, whether they’re reading it or writing it) every once in a while, for just a short time. Builds empathy better, if nothing else. (And yes, WordPress, THIS time I really do mean to spell it with the y on the end. *shakes head* Damn autocorrect…)

        I almost responded to Nicholas’ post with a lengthy comment of my own. Last winter, I was told to stop writing entirely, that writing was bad for me because it ‘prevented me from expressing myself.’ I thought that was bullshit then (which is why I chose to have nothing to do with the person who said it), and I still do. Reading about these studies showing that writing IMPROVES mental and physical health, I found myself growing angry at that anyone would insist otherwise. (https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/sometimes-real-life-sucks/)


        • Comments appear to have been shut off after 5 or a time limit, for that post (you can change that easily, if you like), so I’ll say what I think, here: I would support anybody’s decision to dump that therapist. I speak as a retired RN.

          There may well be studies of the kind you mentioned, but they may be published in smaller, university journals that can be hard to find. Offhand, I’m aware of a couple of old studies about the positive effects of romance-novel reading, at least one of which came out of England.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Commenting on an OLD blog post: Again we see one of Weaver’s ‘I think DIFFERENTLY from how the majority of people think, so I must be BETTER than everyone else in the world’ posts… Seriously, how have I so completely overlooked, all these years, the fact that I’m an EVIL person who hates everyone else and thinks them inferior and stuff?? Maybe it’s my total lack of empathy. (Okay, sorry, that last bit came out kinda sarcastic. I didn’t actually mean it, but I acknowledge that I SHOULD mean it. If a person who only just met me can see that I lack empathy, it’s gotta be true… even if I can’t say so without falling into sarcasm again. *sigh*)

    Y’know, this ‘trying to think the way other people tell me I should think’ thing is HARD.


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