Yesterday I found an abstract for a scholarly article about distraction written by Dr. Kalina Christoff and I got pretty excited.  She is researching “introspective thought processes” as well as “spontaneous thought processes such as mind-wandering”. She is using functional neuroimaging (fMRi) to locate the generation of off-task behavior in regions of the brain including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.

Hello— I am all about mind-wandering!  Why wouldn’t I want to kill an afternoon reading about this?

A few thoughts occurred to me simultaneously.  I am excited that Dr. Christoff is imaging the distracted brain.  It calls to mind Sally Shaywitz’s ground-breaking fMRi's of dyslexics.  Reading Sally Shaywitz book On Dyslexia was transformative for me.  Could the future hold a similar book about ADHD? The idea that in the next few decades we might understand the relationship between creativity and distraction on a neurological level is pretty mind-blowing. Also….

Dr. Christoff has a lab at the University of British Columbia. Even better, she takes volunteers. I bet it’s pretty gorgeous there. I mean, Vancouver, right? I have friends who live in Vancouver. I could move to Vancouver and volunteer in her lab, and write my new contemporary YA romance novel in my spare time. Also…

Not to criticize Dr Christoff in any way (and certainly not before I apply to volunteer in her lab)  but I do have a quibble with her chart.  Shouldn’t a visual aid about mind-wandering be more chaotic? This is the most orderly chart about mental disorder I’ve ever seen.  

If I were to chart my own distracted thoughtprocess, I’d draw a Venn diagram where ruminative and obsessive thoughts intersect with the corresponding circles of goal-directed thoughts, creative thinking, mind-wandering while walking, and, of course, day-dreaming about wearing a lab coat in a cognitive research lab and meeting a sensitive yet driven post-doc with great hair. 

In the smallest polygon where all the bubbles of directed and non-directed thought intersect would be: write. 

I need to get back to work on my novel. I have been more distracted than usual lately. It’s hard to keep my mind on romance when the world seems to be unravelling.  Scientific advancement offers a glimmer of hope for the future that seems pretty black right now.  Romance is supposed to do the same thing.

Now if I could only set a YA contemporary romance in a cognitive research lab….