The War for Your Attention

rogue-oneLast night Emma and I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and we thought it was epic. And heart-breaking. But as always happens when a writer watches a movie (at least it always happens to me), I found myself thinking about what got me invested in each character — especially Jyn and Cassian, and Cassian’s (at first) annoying droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) — and how the parts were woven together. If it starts as merely someone’s vision, someone’s wild idea, and then becomes words on screenplay pages, and then camera angles, etc., what makes it come together, what makes it come alive and tick?

Despite a powerful urge to bake (or melt chocolate and stir), tonight I am watching the 2015 Star Wars with my daughter (remember Rey and Finn?) and pecking away at my keyboard here. I may (finally) start my Christmas letter, too.

Earlier today, however, I was reading A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting cell-phoneand Productive Writing Practice, by Jordan Rosenfeld, and I came across a page about the folly of multi-tasking. Rosenfeld refers us to an NPR story citing neuroscientist Earl Miller, who explains that the brain is not good at doing more than one thing at a time. What the brain is good at is “deluding itself” (qtd. in Rosenfeld, 31). I noticed last quarter that young people, especially, believe that they are the multi-tasking generation. Nevertheless, their minds often seem miles and miles away from whatever task is at hand. At breaks, all 29 of them whipped out their cell-phones and began tapping and staring intently. When, during class, I’d see a student on his cell phone, I made a point of asking a question of him (or her). Looking up at the sound of his name, looking a little dazed, the student would say, “What?” Not good at multi-tasking. As I told them, in a few years we will all be in 12-step programs trying to break our fierce dependence on these devices.

I wonder if one of the reasons I like to watch movies (the ones I like) over and over has to do with my not simply watching but simultaneously attempting to analyze them?

Well, you can go here to read or listen to the NPR story for yourself. For now, I think I’ll rein in my wild mind, close the laptop, and just enjoy the movie.




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