The pleasure of fiction, for me, is the total immersion in the story. That immersion is powerful and delicate. It is a bubble of thin film that keeps reality temporarily at bay and while it exists, I live in another world. But it is a bubble that is easily broken.
It is this delicate nature of immersion, more than anything else, that keeps me from watching TV shows and movies. The slightest distraction bursts the bubble whatever magic existed vanishes. Once that happens, it is almost impossible for me to reclaim it.
It says something about the pace of my life these days that I can rarely get through a 20 minute sitcom with this bubble in tact. The instances when I make it through a show with the bubble in tact are as magical as they are rare. If it happens once a year, I feel grateful. But these days, because I know it happens so infrequently, I’ve mostly given up the attempt to form that bubble from television shows or motion pictures in the first place.
I wish I could say that the same was not true for written fiction. But I find that the magical immersion of written fiction–much more powerful for me than visual media–is broken just as readily by interruption. It is perhaps, part of the reason I’ve read less and less fiction over the years and focused more on nonfiction. Nonfiction, for whatever reason, is never as immersive and interruptions don’t bother me as much.
On rare occasions, I make it through a complete novel in a day, sometimes, in a single sitting. This is the reading equivalent of hitting for the cycle or throwing a no-hitter. I recently read Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy in a single sitting and it was magical.
Reading online introduces an additional layer of distraction. When I first began using the web back in 1994, I was besotted with the idea of hyperlinks. It was (and is) so easy to cross-reference and link to related pieces. Writing something became an exercise in displaying connections in thought. But over the years, two problems emerged for me.
I found, when reading pieces online, that I was frequently distracted by the links. I’d start reading a post or article only to find that I never finished it. At some point, I’d followed a link and instead of getting through the rest of what I’m sure would have a been a good piece, found myself twenty minutes later some twenty links distant from that piece. The links themselves became a distraction.
When writing pieces for the blog, I’d find myself distracted from the writing by linking to other posts or sites within the piece I was writing. This linking broke the immersion of writing and I think the quality of the work suffered. I was also providing a similar distraction for readers of my posts.
You may have noticed that for the last several pieces I’ve written here, I’ve provided no links, and that is intentional. I wanted, first and foremost, to write without the distraction of linking. I also wanted to avoid the same trap for my readers.
It occurred to me, however, that linking was still helpful to me and others. So I decided, beginning with this piece, to gather the links in a “notes” section at the end of each piece. This way, I write a piece without the worry of distraction, and you can read a piece without being sidetracked by links. At the end, if a reader is interested, you can check out the notes for any links. It is my way to help eliminate some of the distractions that bothers me.
- “It is this delicate nature of immersion, more than anything else, that keeps me from watching TV shows and movies…” There are other reasons. With all of the sequels and reboots and spinoffs, it seems like TV and film writers are experiencing a serious and collective bout of writers’ block. Doing what has already been done before is the easiest way of unblocking.
- “I’ve read less and less fiction over the years and focused more on nonfiction.” If you look at my reading stats, you’ll see this trend in the very first chart. It began in 2014 and has continued ever since.
- Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy. I’d recommend reading The Passenger by McCarthy first.
- “I’d find myself distracted from the writing by linking to other posts or sites..” This is one example of a link-heavy post. I think it took twice as much time to do the linking as it did to write the post itself.
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