Learned Something Cool Today

Today I spent basically 7 hours at the computer wrestling with a script.  I took breaks to make tea, visit the bathroom to unload the tea, pace around the house, but mostly I was at my desk thinking and typing.  Where does this scene really go?  Would it work better earlier?  Does this word really convey what I want to say?  If I can tighten this line I’ll lose a widow.  Is it clear how the protagonist is feeling from this dialog?  In short decisions.  Hundreds of them.  Some large and some so small I might not even be aware I was making a decision.

I had a riding lesson this afternoon so I left the computer, changed, went to the barn, and rode horribly.  I was as exhausted as if I’d been breaking rocks for the past many hours.  I apologized to my coach, and she said — “Of course you’re tired.  You’re suffering from decision fatigue.  Apparently this is a real thing.  That when you make a lot of decisions over many hours, or in a very tight time crunch it is not only mentally tiring it is physically tiring as well.  Here is a link to the article in the N.Y. Times. Decision Fatigue

It made me feel a bit better about riding like an amateur, and it made me wonder how I might combat the phenomenon.  I would love to work more tonight, but I simply can’t.  Truthfully I don’t have enough energy to think of something to eat for dinner much less prepare it, and the thought of driving into town to a restaurant is even more exhausting.  It reminded me yet again — writing is hard work.

4 Responses to Learned Something Cool Today

  • Darlene M. Stapp says:

    I guess that’s why most meeting are conducted early in the day. In the afternoon; say 3 p.m. and beyond the decision makers are already in that “decision fatigue” zone. Well, it gives me a headache trying to absorb all that was in the article. Still, it gave me mental food for thought. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Rebecca Hewett says:

    The conservation labs where I worked had the basic, unwritten rule of “make no important decision after 3:30 in the afternoon and make ABSOLUTELY NO decision after 4:00.” Because that 500 year old, unique, cultural whatever can’t withstand a poor decision. We called it brain rot.

  • A few year ago, I turned in a short manuscript to Steve Jackson Games (the final draft of GURPS City Stats, which I think is 16 pages in the published form). Or, rather, I set out to turn it it—I was tired, and set out to delete the main text from one of the supporting documents, and then realized that I had deleted it in the main document! So all my work was lost, and I had to re-create it from memory. (Now I have an external hard drive doing automatic backups!)

    It had taken me two months to write the book. It took me two weeks to redo it. That two weeks was how long it took to do the typing and the sentence composition; the rest of the two months had been the thinking and choosing. Which gave me very concrete evidence of where the “work” is in writing.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Oh, William, what a nightmare! I had something similar happen on the Star Trek novel I wrote all those long years ago. I was rolling through the climax, and totally into it. I was rather new to computers in those days, and I forgot to save, and my old Televideo didn’t have an auto-save function. I finished with a flourish, hit save, and Word blew everything I’d written, all 17 pages out the top of the computer and up to Jesus. I had to laboriously recreate it all. It sucked. But yes, it is easier the second time. Though I always had a sneaking suspicion that my word choices were more elegant and evocative in that first version. 🙂

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