A friend called me a mean and hurtful name the other day: prolific.
Prolific. Like an all you can eat buffet. The food sucks but there is plenty of it. That’s me.
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) July 9, 2015
But that’s just me. I’m sure he didn’t mean to make me feel like that full chafing dish of eight hour old turkey tetrazzini. I write. A lot. It’s what I do, my version of the dreaded “mindfulness,” if you will.
A lot of people (and I mean, a lot) either question me as to how I do it, express some degree of marvel at my output, or attack me as if I must spend all day and night doing this, because there is no way they could produce what I produce otherwise. And even some friends smack me on occasion for writing too much: “I can’t read as much as you write. Would you just stop it already?”
In the past, I’ve explained that this doesn’t take me very long to do, much as someone else may lack the ability to produce as much as I do and then project their inability onto me. People who do this are morons, and treated as such. Your inability to write has nothing to do with me, dumbass.
But there is another aspect to being “prolific” that not only allows me to do this, not to mention respond to comments, but maintain a law practice and an otherwise wonderful life. It’s a phenomenon called “changing set” or “task shifting,” and I suspect it’s something all good trial lawyers possess. Via Wikipedia:
Task switching, or set-shifting, is an executive function and a kind of cognitive flexibility that involves the ability to shift attention between one task and another. This ability allows a person to rapidly and efficiently adapt to different situations. It is often studied by cognitive and experimental psychologists, and can be tested experimentally using tasks like the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
Not being a psychologist, I’ll leave the empiricism to others to discuss, and I will focus instead on . . . focus. When I write, I focus intensely on whatever I’m writing about. My writing is entirely extemporaneous, flowing from head to fingers without a break. It helps that I type really well.
I often don’t know exactly what’s going to appear on the screen until it does, and as ideas flesh out, I’m confronted with the validity of my view or its failing. I regularly end up somewhere different than I thought I would before I started to write.
But it all flows naturally, as far as it goes, without entertaining thoughts about anything other than the substance of what I’m writing. There are no thoughts of marketing, or SEO, or hurt feelings, or even spelling or grammar. I focus on the idea and nothing else.
And when I shift to something else, I similarly focus with the same intensity on the next task or problem. All day long, I move from task to task with both speed and intensity, which allows me to dive into the middle of what I need to accomplish without wasting time or losing focus.
You ever get that feeling like you need to take a break between tasks, get a breather, recharge? I don’t. I can move in a split second from deciding how many legal pads to order to discussing the intricate concerns in determining how best to present an argument for suppression. And back again.
Contrary to what others think, this isn’t multi-tasking. I can’t, and don’t, multi-task at all, where my attention is divided between different things at the same time. In my view, multi-taskers are people who can do many things poorly at once. Rather, this is about doing one thing at a time with complete focus and attention, and then when done, immediately moving to the next thing, whatever that may be.
To analogize it to what we do at trial, we’re constantly in the position of being required to not only make snap decisions, but to be capable of arguing the correctness of our position instantaneously. Objection! Why. You can neither take the time to ponder whether or not to speak up, nor ask the judge to give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts as to why you’ve so rudely interrupted the other side’s questions.
Same goes for cross-examination, where an answer to a question gives rise to an entirely new, perhaps previously unanticipated, line of questioning. If you can’t listen, hear, process and adjust to what just happened, it’s lost.
I merely put this into play in writing, because writing is something I like to do and my preferred catharsis. And if that makes me prolific, much as I despise the word, what can I do? And if you don’t like it, don’t read me. But don’t tell me how I do this based upon your executive function limitations.
This is fun and easy. Plus, what else would I do with my early mornings if not write? I have no expectation that everyone (anyone?) will agree with anything I write, and frankly don’t give a damn. I don’t appreciate the butthurt or dumbasses projecting their petty motivations on me, but mostly ignore such crap with the understanding that intelligent readers will realize without the need for me to explain to them that other people’s whining has nothing to do with my purposes. And if you can’t figure that out, then your thoughts aren’t worth my time anyway.