Amber Foxx has worked professionally in theater and dance, fitness, and academia. In her free time she enjoys music, dancing, art, running and yoga. She divides her time between the Southeast and the Southwest, living in Truth or Consequences during her New Mexico months. Learn more about Amber and her books at her website.
I usually blog about things that make me happy, so I challenged myself to discuss frustrations. It was harder than I expected. I have a bias toward the positive. Still, it can be good to hear someone share a frustration. Recently, one of my students delivered a hilarious rant about early morning classes as she slumped and sprawled over her desk—in a morning class, of course. I’m the professor, so I can’t behave like that, but I agreed with her and felt more normal about my preference to sleep late. It doesn’t change the fact that morning people took over the world while we were asleep; it just makes it more bearable to have someone express the same feelings. I don’t have much to complain about it, and I’m not as funny as she was, but I do have an ongoing frustration that others may identify with. Fragmentation.
I heard the following fragments of fascinating facts on NPR.
1. A study found that people who are interrupted frequently as part of an experiment will continue to interrupt themselves for one to two hours after the intrusions have stopped.
2. France has passed a Right to Disconnect Law. Workers have the right to ignore calls and emails from their workplaces while they are on vacation or after working hours, and employers legally cannot penalize them for not taking those calls. The purpose of this is to make sure people can enjoy their leisure, their social events, and their family time uninterrupted.
I would have liked to learn more, but I had to interrupt each of these stories, get out of the car and go teach a class.
As a professor, my day is broken up into one-hour to ninety-minute chunks for meetings and classes without enough time in-between to focus the way I like to. During an hour between two classes, I end up doing lots of fragmented tasks, such as answering emails. Students and colleagues have come to expect this as the norm for communication, rather than dropping by office hours for conversation. I long for uninterrupted concentration. (Did you notice the rhymes? I could write a patter song from that. Oops. Did you notice how I just interrupted myself?) All these tiny tasks breaking up my focus are turning me into an absent-minded professor. It’s my job to read, write and think, and fragmentation makes it harder. I’ve picked two nights out of the week on which I schedule nothing after work, so I can stay late to read and grade student papers in peace, taking as long as I need to.
Because I crave escape from fragments and want whole experiences, I love getting lost in books, both reading them and writing them. Summers and vacations are bliss because I can write for hours. I schedule my time around a few key events—exercise, social life, and sleep—and otherwise I can enter flow to my heart’s content.
I confess that fragmentation fatigue makes it hard for me to enjoy most social media. Facebook lets me stay in touch with friends I don’t see often and fellow writers I only know online, but its busy interface doesn’t inherently appeal to me. Twitter makes me feel as if hundreds of fragments are flying at me, and I want to duck them. The only social media form I truly embrace is blogging. The blogs I follow present fully developed ideas or images that I can take time to enjoy, with no other visual stimuli clamoring at me from above or below them. Writing a blog post allows me time to explore an idea and polish it. While other social media feel like a drive in heavy traffic in a construction zone with billboards on all sides, blogging feels like a leisurely walk on a pleasant day.
While I was writing this, it struck me that although my protagonist is in college (she’s in her late twenties, a non-traditional age student), I’ve set only small portions of any of my books during the academic year. As a student, her days are chopped up as much as mine are, between her classes and study groups and her job at the campus fitness center. The open space of her vacations gives me more freedom in my plots. Snake Face takes place during a Christmas holiday. The newest book, Ghost Sickness, is set during her summer break.
On my own summer breaks, I have frequently and blissfully attended the ceremonies on the Mescalero Apache reservation that Mae goes to in the book. I can enter a deep, ecstatic state of pure attention during these dances. But of course, I can’t give my main character the kind of serene vacations I enjoy. What I can give her is uninterrupted time to get involved in a mystery.
A Mae Martin Psychic Mystery, Book 5
No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.
A visit to the Mescalero Apache reservation turns from vacation to turmoil for Mae Martin.
Reno Geronimo has more money than a starving artist should. He’s avoiding his fiancée and his family. His former mentor, nearing the end of her life, refuses to speak to him and no one knows what caused the rift. Distressed and frustrated, Reno’s fiancée asks Mae to use her psychic gift to find out what he’s hiding. Love and friendship are rocked by conflict as she gets closer and closer to the truth.
Bargain! The first book in the Mae Martin Series, TheCalling, is on sale for 99 cents through October 28th.