Game, Set, Match

A friend called me a mean and hurtful name the other day: prolific.

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.

26 thoughts on “Game, Set, Match

  1. REvers

    There is nothing at all wrong with being prolific. Isaac Asimov was prolific. It worked out pretty well for everybody.

    1. SHG Post author

      “Blawger, I served with Isaac Asimov. I knew Isaac Asimov. Isaac Asimov was a friend of mine. Blawger, you’re no Isaac Asimov.”

          1. alpharia

            Well as Heinlein said:

            “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

            Keep being prolific in everything you do, If more people were the world would be an even more amazing, weird, strange, and wonderful place.

  2. Ross

    I don’t know how you do it, and, honestly, don’t care. I am just happy you choose to share with the rest of us. Besides, if you didn’t write, I would have to find something else to read in the morning, and there’s just not that much worth looking at, and very little with the same breadth of issues.

    1. SHG Post author

      And I am more than bit miffed when I look at my feed and see no other criminal law blawger’s posts in the morning. Where is everyone else? It can’t just be me.

  3. Tom H

    I also enjoy reading your posts every morning. I’ve never commented because, well, not a lawyer. Thank you for being prolific.

  4. Wrongway

    I’m not sure it this matters or not .. but ..

    Stephen King talked about how his ideas would come to him & he would put it in words never really knowing where it would lead or end.. & it would take him years sometimes to even get a grasp of the big picture & stay in focus on the chapter & not stray off topics or events in his stories..

    i think its really cool you do this on a daily basis..
    of course you’re not writing a trilogy or a novel based on a true story for TV..
    just a blawg, right ??

    I’m glad you do what you do & I’m glad I’ve found it & can read it..
    no matter how you do it..

  5. Jim Tyre

    You blog, cross-examine and make critical decisions about legal pad purchases with equal laser-like focus? Can you leap tall buildings?

  6. Pen

    I love that you write so much. You update far more often than almost all the other blogs (and blawgs), I follow, and you always give me something to think about.

  7. John Burgess

    If you’ll permit me to go meta for a moment… When did you learn to type? It is my supposition that those who learned to type with some competence in high school find it much easier to produce cogent written matter than those who learned (or not) later in life. One who is at ease typing 90+ WPM is going to be more prolific (and sometimes more prolix) than the three-finger typist.

    If you have any surplus SOS, please send it. If it’s good, that is. I can find poor quality locally.

    1. SHG Post author

      When I was in my senior year in college, 1978-9, I got an internship with Ken Kahn at his fledgling start-up, Labor Relations Press (now LRP), and as his clerk when he was Chair of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. He used computers, primitive by today’s standards but quite advanced at the time, but I had to type my little heart out to get my work done.

      I was able to type before that, but it turned me from a hunt and peck typist to a speed typist. Today, I can type well over 90 wpm. And since I’ve long since worn out the letters on my keyboard (the A, S, N and L are gone in about a month), it’s all blind.

  8. John Barleycorn

    There is probably an imbedded genetic flaw or something that prevents you from figuring out a way to sing and dance while typing. But I think, it’s more likely, you just haven’t tried hard enough yet.

    If you started paying attention to and concentrating on those fluid momentary moments between your “changing sets” you could probably capitalize on the transitions of consciousness that have yet to materialize, but will materialize in the future landscape of the law and western politics as they are known today.

    Which would make you less cranky, lead to fame and fortune, and co-anchoring a variety news hour program an hour after prime time with a woman in her early forties that was a cross between a German Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman with the attitude of a Brazilian Greta Garbo educated in Switzerland.

    The demographics of the viewership could be a breakthrough but unfortunately this new genera won’t get figured out until after the show is canceled.

    Sure it will create a whole new and hip underground subculture on the inter-tubes but the future of humankind will be screwed just because you wasted so much time and for whatever reason forget to concentrate on the glue of the universe that holds transition sets together.

    You selfish bastard.

    There is a parody Woody Woodpecker version of this tune that could be reworked to become the intro for a regular segment on your news hour variety show. That is if you get your shit together and stop wasting so much time.

  9. losingtrader

    Now I understand. You type faster than I read….but
    you’ve earned a lawsuit from the word “buffet.” Pay the extra $15 to skip the line at the Wynn.
    Prolific would be a great compliment.
    Attorney Adam Kutner is waiting for your call to settle the claim. His number is in the Popehat post.

  10. Vin

    Be a lot funnier if you podcasted. Though at this point I think I can actually “hear” you. 😉

  11. Ken Mackenzie

    Did your mind always work that way, or is it a skill you developed in court and practising law?

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s a hard question to answer. I suspect it was always that way, but it bloomed as I gained experience in practice. I suspect my thinking process fully developed after about 20 years of experience.

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