My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Arwen Elys Dayton to talk about how the power of temporary hyperdrive relates to Seeker.
My new book, Seeker, is set in the near future in Scotland and Hong Kong. The teens in this story have spent years on a remote estate, undergoing often brutal training with some really interesting weapons. All of this is to become a Seeker, one who uses this special training and weaponry to make the world better and more fair — the characters look on their calling as something like a futuristic version of the Knights Templar, committed to doing what’s right.
Naturally, as the author of this story, it would be awesome if I had a special ability with weapons or hand to hand combat or languages or anything related to the book. I would love to be one of my characters. I did watch a lot of Bruce Lee films as a kid; I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the weapons section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and I went to a very international high school, so I can swear in a lot of different languages…but unfortunately, I don’t think any of these traits rise to superpower level.
After putting a considerable amount of thought into this, however, there is one quality I possess that might be a superpower — temporary hyperdrive. And by that I mean that I can — on occasion — work about five times as fast as I should reasonably be able to. This allows me to get an amazing amount of things done really quickly. But this power has two very important drawbacks:
- It only kicks in when I’m desperately behind schedule and my email inbox and desk are both shamefully overflowing.
- Temporary hyperdrive doesn’t work in any interesting area of life and almost never helps me with anything I care about.
Essentially, when my back is against a wall, this hyperdrive enables me to handle a ridiculous amount of administrative drudgery — like returning calls from the plumber and refrigerator repair guy, getting through hundreds of emails on non-essential topics I wish I could just delete outright, making spreadsheets of random financial data for my taxes — anything that is completely uninteresting but that eventually has to get done. When hyperdrive kicks in, all this nonsense gets handled fast.
If I could make this work for writing, it would be the best superpower ever (except for, obviously, flying and X-ray vision). But it emphatically does not work for writing. Writing is mostly slow going. Writing may, in fact, be kryptonite to my temporary hyperdrive, may be why it’s temporary. If I weren’t a writer, maybe I would have permanent hyperdrive.
But I am a writer, and I choose to be grateful for this fickle superpower, despite its limitations. When it graces me with its presence, all the paperwork gets blown off my desk as though by gale-force wind, so I can sit down to write with a clear mind — a mind which admittedly slows down as soon as I open up Scrivener (but hey, at least all that other stuff got done).
On second thought, there’s one small way hyperdrive does help with writing: it illuminates the extreme-stress moments in my characters’ lives. There are several high-intensity chapters in Seeker where all the major characters come into dangerous and emotionally charged confrontations. Experiencing hyperdrive from time to time allows me to visualize strenuous, crazy, overwhelming moments a little better, and to write them with a certain amount of…personal experience. Yes, my experience is with menial admin tasks, but if I cram enough of them into a very short period of time, I feel as though I’m taking on a burden with much graver consequences — I feel as though I could at least be a bit player in a book like Seeker. 🙂
ARWEN ELYS DAYTON began her career as a teenage staff writer at a foundation that produced Peabody Award-winning educational shows for PBS. She now spends months doing research for her stories, which has taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Hong Kong harbor, and the castles of Scotland. Arwen lives with her husband and their three children in the rainy Pacific Northwest. You can visit her at arwendayton.com and follow her on Twitter at @arwenelysdayton.