Crossing the Rubicon with Jonathan Strange

It turns out, I’m a microblogger. And once Google Plus releases an API and WordPress programmers produce an appropriate plugin, my microblogging might take over. Meanwhile, if you’re new to my blog and you’d love to hear more of my randomness, you can find me on Google Plus.

But here’s two microblogs for you, meanwhile.

I’ve been rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell since I recently purchased an on-sale Kindle edition. (It handles the footnotes by putting them at the end of each chapter (and also hyperlinked), which is reasonable.) It is probably my single favorite book, and Susanna Clarke is one of my top three favorite authors. This is true even though I had to read it three times to figure out the POINT of Mr. Norrell in the grand scheme of things. It is one of the few books I’ve read where the early promise of wonder delivers in a way that surpasses my imagination. I love rereading it (even if I skim some of Mr. Norrell’s awfulness).

One thing I noticed on this reread is the wonderful job of foreshadowing done by the footnotes. From the very beginning of the book, there are subdued little references to things that happen at the end of the book– a single issue of a magazine published, for example, or a reference to a quarrel between two characters.

Beautiful book. I hope the author really is working on a sequel. She seems to have vanished from the networked universe in 2006.

On a totally different topic, today I read an article in the New York Times on decision fatigue. Basically, decision fatigue is a form of ego depletion, wherein the more decisions you make, the harder you find it to make decisions. The article goes off into the territory of ego depletion too, where willpower is a resource that can be both used up and renewed. The general conclusions seem to be that it’s easier to make decisions earlier in the day, and glucose renews our store of willpower.

It’s interesting seeing echoes of this article in my own life. For example, trial and error has taught me that if I want to lose weight, it’s easiest if I budget most of my calorie intake for the end of the day. Biology and metabolism rates while sleeping be damned, I know I’m bad at resisting eating in the evening. I’m much better at exercising self-control over food in the early part of the day.

While I’ve written at any time of day, I seem to be happiest if I do it in the morning. It’s easiest to make myself sit down right after I get up. Failing that, I usually schedule it right after a meal.

And I have a special relationship with grocery stores. I used to do my grocery shopping in the evenings, and often I’d do it alone. And by the end of a shopping trip, I’d be shaking and emotionally exhausted with all of the decision-making I’d be doing, choosing between brands, planning out meals on the fly, debating between cost and quality, trying to decide on allowed indulgences. Having a list helps a little. So does having somebody else along– the distraction means I spend less time worrying about making an optimal decision.

Indecision is something I struggle with a lot these days. I’ve often wondered if I’ve become more indecisive as I’ve gotten older. Now I think this is probably true. I make a lot more decisions these days and those decisions affect more people. It’s no wonder I sometimes flip out when nobody other than me will decide where to eat for dinner.

I suspect decision fatigue also shows up in editing my own writing, especially with something I’ve spent a long time on already. I remember the feeling of, “I DO NOT CARE ANY MORE I WILL MAKE CHANGES WHEN SOMEBODY BUYS THE BOOK AND TELLS ME WHAT CHANGES TO MAKE.” It isn’t that I don’t care about the book being the best it can be. I was just completely out of resources (which some people call ‘give a damn’ and other people call ‘spoons’).

(I just got my revision letter for Matchbox Girls. I’m wondering if I should invest in some yummy snacks to pop right before each editing session. It could help!)

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