My attention span, that is. The thing that’s gone in sixty seconds, I mean. That’s what the title refers to, and not to the film of the same name. This is not a review of the film, just in case you were wondering, after having perhaps happened upon this by accident. There will be no mention of Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, or former “hard-man-of-football-turned-Ac-Tor” Vinnie Jones (and where better to learn and perfect your acting technique than on a football pitch? There’s been many an Oscar-winning performance played out on that stage!) Oh. I just mentioned them, didn’t I, when I said that there wouldn’t be any mention of them. Well, what I mean is that there will be no further mention of them, or the film, after this. If I can only remember what the bloody hell I was going to write about in this article!
Ah, yes. My attention span. Or lack thereof, to be more precise. You know it would be easier just to write a review of the film really, even though I’ve never actually seen it. But then writing or talking about things that I have limited or no knowledge of has never been much of a deterrent to me. It’s not that I embellish or fabricate a story, the way that non-autistics do (commonly known as bullshitting!), but rather that I can take a fact and then string it out to fill a whole conversation; or, if I run out of steam, then I can flit from the fact at hand to incorporate other information, which may or may not have a link (though possibly tenuous) to the topic I’m presently on. Much like the way this article is going, really.
Oh, I remember now what I was supposed to be writing about – my attention span. Ah yes, the absolute joy of having a brain that seems to short circuit every time I try to force it to focus on something for longer than sixty seconds. That may be a slight exaggeration – it’s only on very bad days that it’s this short – but on average I can probably only do about twenty minutes before I get distracted, and I don’t even know whether I’m fully-focused during that time.
Okay, so here’s a case in point. I’ve been trying to write this article for about the last couple of weeks, and now I’ve lost interest. This is despite the fact that when I say I’ve been doing it for two weeks, I do not literally mean that every moment of every day has been spent sitting here, straining my brain to focus on getting the words on the page. Nope. My plan precludes such a thing, because it’s designed to try to break up the obsessive part of me. I do writing on four days of the week, for half an hour each day.
This means that, in total, I’ve been attempting to focus my attention for the humongous amount of ... two hours. That’s two HOURS out of two WEEKS. That’s two hours out of THREE HUNDRED and THIRTY-SIX HOURS!! And I’ve barely even managed that, hence the long and arduous (not to mention frequently damn-well tortured!) route that this article has taken in being conceived and delivered. Hell, I don’t even think giving birth is this laboured!
I used to think that I suffered from writer’s block – a lot! I now think it was more a case of the writer in me going on extended leave because there just wasn’t room for it. It gets a little crowded in here when you’ve got ADHD, complemented by being obsessive/compulsive. Funny thing is I don’t ever seem to get obsessed and compelled by the need to write... or draw, paint, make craft things, do calligraphy, learn how to use the programmes on the computer... All things which I, apparently, love doing. Even yoga, which is probably my favourite thing in the whole world, often gets easily abandoned when my brain is otherwise engaged in distracting my mind. My friend Dee has frequently pointed this out, and all I can say is, “Duh?”!
Reading and thinking – this is what I get distracted by, probably the two least productive activities in the whole world for someone with autism! I even tried to read my way out of writer’s block. I found a book about how to write (even though I already know how to do it!), and proceeded to submerge myself in it. I really enjoyed it, actually: it kept me distracted for weeks, and I didn’t do a single bit of productive writing within that time.
I did, however, try to follow one of the exercises designed, apparently, to get the well-spring of creativity primed and pumping – it was called ‘morning pages’. Unfortunately I didn’t fully understand the instructions, so the intended outcome was not forthcoming. For one thing my morning pages, which were funnily enough meant to be restricted to the morning, actually extended throughout the day. They were also supposed to be limited to three pages, and to take no more than twenty minutes to write out. Oh, and you weren’t supposed to think about what you were writing, but simply to put down whatever came into your mind at that moment, commonly known as “stream of consciousness”. None of which I managed to stick to (another problem I have – following instructions!) Of course it now makes more sense of why this is, since it’s very difficult to do so when you haven’t fully comprehended them.
Okay, so I’ve now taken an extra three writing sessions to complete this, which is another hour and a half on my original total. And now I’m going to finish it ‘cos there’s not a lot more to be said right now on the subject. Basically, my attention’s gone. Again!
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."