On the bus from Vancouver to Eugene, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport from start to finish. I had brought the book for the weekend; I hadn’t planned to finish it on the first day. I suppose it made a beautiful kind of sense: finding enough focus to read a book about finding enough focus.
When I wrote about Deep Work, I noted how few female voices were quoted. One of those few was Winifred Gallagher, who wrote Rapt, a pop science book about attention. I’m reading that one, and true to my new medicated form, I’m nearly done.
This is a topic I’ve been obsessed with since high school. I’ve never felt like I know how to focus. Recently, reading a survey of numerous different personality tests, I learned about Highly Sensitive People. I don’t have the physical reactions of some (though I don’t care for spicy food), but I am constantly aware of everything. I notice things, which I had always credited to my writer’s brain.
But as I find myself enjoying the quiet empty space of my apartment more and more, I wonder if my noticing has in fact been pulling my focus all this time. I wonder how much I’ve sabotaged myself, trying to decide between everything which sounds interesting.
I know a little about a lot. It’s ALL interesting to me. But the mental load of the endless decisions about where to put my creative attention, in addition to the everyday decisions of life, has left me exhausted.
Gallagher says, “Deciding what to pay attention to…is a peculiarly human predicament.” No other animal has to deal with free time. They only have to survive.
I don’t want to live like a tiger on the run, but perhaps like a housecat, who has most of their decisions made for them. I don’t have the capacity anymore; I probably never did.
It’s only now that my curiosity has caught up with me.