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Writer Distractibility

I may have written about procrastination in a former post. Procrastinating is not the same as being distracted but they overlap. I don’t know what the cure is for procrastinating but I try and think of how good I feel once a project is done and not hanging over me.

Distractions are a bit out of our control but how we handle them is the real trick. Some days I’m a pro while other days I can hear a bird tweet and it’s the end of my concentration.

On a daily basis I deal with a number of things:

  • My son getting stuck with school work (can hardly be called distraction because school is important)
  • The dogs needing something; a walk, water, food, play
  • Downstairs neighbors slamming doors
  • Downstairs neighbors cooking nauseating food
  • Downstairs neighbors playing loud music
  • Phone calls from friends
  • Loud weather outside
  • Son talking super loud to friends over Xbox live (video games)
  • Emails
  • Laundry machine noise
  • TV I left on but am too lazy to get up and go turn it off.
  • Coyotes howling outside. (Yes, happens a lot).
  • Sirens outside. (Sparks paranoia; who’s place is on fire and will I have to evacuate?)
  • Test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Why is this necessary so often?
  • Allergy attack. Sneezing, coughing, now I have to get up and go find tissue.
  • UPS at the door. (FedEx man is truly special and doesn’t knock because he knows it sets off my dogs.)
  • Someone screaming outside.
  • *Car accident. (I live in a nice apartment on the second floor but still hear ALL these things below and yonder).
  • iPhone. Text messages coming in. Who is it and can it wait? Will they be mad if I don’t respond for an hour?

I used to have a pair of noise cancelling headphones, which I greatly suggest if you are riddled by distraction. You can get cheap ones at the hardware store or some fancy types online. They can be slightly annoying if you wear glasses (pressing into the sides of your head). I find that well meaning people still come in to disrupt you see the headphones and go, “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt. By the way, when is dinner?”

There’s s reason people retire to some cabin on the top of a mountain and do their best work during snow storms. It’s quiet as heck. Which can work adversely and before you know it procrastination crops up. Either that or you have darker problems like Jack Torrance in the Shining.

I find if I practice I can get good at ignoring distractions but it’s hard and my brain is fickle. One day can be different than the next. I practice tuning out everything as if I’m in a bubble – but doesn’t always work. Mindfulness actually helps. It seems counter intuitive, but as we learned from therapy for our son the more you fight against what bothers you – the more it will bother you. Acknowledge it. Let it wash over you and give it no power. It’s there and not much you can do about it. Pretty soon it becomes powerless.

If you want to fully test the limits of your distractibility go sit in Starbucks on a busy day with tablet or laptop and try and write. No – not surfing social media – that’s different than writing a novel. Or blog entry.

Come to think of it…I do need some coffee right now. The Keurig will have to do.

*One time I heard a terrible screech and large thud. Had to look out the window, couldn’t see anything. Went back to computer. Later on when walking the dogs I learned some teenager had plunged her car over a median into the left side of the road and into several street signs, taking out large plants along the way. Car parts were scattered for a hundred feet or more. She fled the scene. Reno, NV is full of this kind of thing so distractions run high all the time.

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