I have come to accept constant distraction as a part of the writing process. Having written with permanent internet access for most of my life, I can’t switch it off and concentrate fully on the open text. Because so many things swirl around in my head from sentence to sentence, I need to be able to click away, to check emails and Goodreads notifications and Facebook every four minutes. Things like: is this sentence as good as the preceding sentence? is this the best word choice here, what about these seven different words instead, is this working in the piece overall, what’s missing from this scene, is this the sort of thing I should be writing, what do I want to say here, do I want to say anything etc, etc, etc.
By keeping the internet on I am distracting all the wagging tongues in my head constantly questioning every word I write, trying to undermine my progress. But recently, I’ve found myself even more restless when writing short stories. Either I am coming around to the usefulness of the short form, or looking to evolve a long-ish short story form for the perpetually distracted reader of these times. I wrote two collage-like pieces called Digressiana that consist of complete microfictions, stories that break off halfway, little weird doodles, self-commenting snarks and bits that run throughout the piece as a whole.
The effect—which I tried last year in a story that simulated channel-hopping—is to create a form that responds to the contemporary attention span—esp. the online attention span (where these pieces may be published, if anyone publishes them at all), where the outcome of (or details pertaining to) one story is not necessarily all the reader cares about. Having many, many stories running at the same time, stories that are dropped or resumed, interrupted, replaced with better or worse ones, might be an interesting response to the distracted reader (and writer) dilemma. Or it might make it worse, by simply encouraging the problem. Who knows. Time will tell as I explore the form. Oh look—a shiny thing!