I ask my students each day to join me in daring to be monotaskers. Mind you, it’s not easy for me, for I often fall into the fashionable practice of multitasking, but at least when I write my daily paragraphs, it’s usually just me and the words, and sometimes, as my assertive ego at long last drops into the background, it’s just the words. When I’m truly focused on the task of placing words on a computer screen in graceful and wise ways, the wide world could go crashing off somewhere and I might just keep typing. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, this type of unswerving, lost-in-thought effort feels like total fulfillment – and I hope my students can learn to let it happen for themselves. You might say it simply requires a love of one-ness – an affection for being thoroughly present with the single task that needs to be done. In a world gone haywire with two-ness, ten-ness, and thousand-ness, it’s a challenge for the students to settle for simply doing the one job that’s at hand, but once they do, they usually find it’s no harder than having, and really enjoying, a single delicious apple for an afternoon treat. It’s hard to enjoy five apples at a time, and it’s just as hard to write a satisfying essay when sixteen concerns are careening around your mind. I ask my students to write and read the way they would eat the most marvelous apple ever – unhurriedly and with affection and deliberation, one high-quality word at a time.
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