Warding Off Distraction

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been working to better organize my time. The fight that I’ve been waging is largely one explained in the documentary “The Social Dilemma;” the fight against distraction.  

But that’s not quantifying it correctly. It’s the fight against media that’s designed to demand my attention and engagement. It agitates for it. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to ward off distraction:

* Turning off my phone, placing it in Gladware, and placing the Gladware out of (easy) reach atop a cabinet.  

* Turning off the wi-fi on my computer when I’m writing or doing layouts on my computer.  

* Turning off my computer and using paper and pen or pencil whenever possible to do my work.  

That’s a lot of turning things off.  

If I have to go online, I sometimes repeat my task like a mantra until I complete it, (a tact attested to by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame). I was kind of suspicious of the effectiveness of these strategies at first, but it seems they are mostly enough to focus my intent, and ward off the feelers of Social Media/ The News. This seems to be the new battle. It’s not going away.  

Intentionally start and intentionally stop

I was speaking today with creative friends about out work today.  

We’ve each rolled around to where the work is a drag. One friend is feeling dried up. Another is struggling with back pain; it’s literally painful for her to sit. Me? I’ve been feeling worn down, dried up, and a bit overwhelmed.  

How to deal with writers block and dry spells is an age old question. The three of us met in a Seth Godin workshop. He’s in the writers write, plumbers plumb school on the subject—you won’t hear about a plumber having plumber’s block, why should a writer get to have writer’s block.   

That said, one friend pointed out plumbers take vacations. Plumbers take personal days from time to time.  

I think many writers get superstitious about taking days off. I know I often believe that one day off leads to two (months).  

The same friend suggested this: intentionally start and intentionally stop. As I’m writing this, those words seem to have all the punch of a joke you had to be there for. But the procrastination that keeps me from my work feels at best semi-intentional, and really seems to happen in a kind ritualized somnambulance. Intention feels like a real answer.  I could simply start with intention—then stop.  

Going it Alone

It’s worth saying, going it alone doesn’t work well.  

Even a diamond, the quintessence of a hardened solitary object requires outside pressure to form. But not just that.  

It must be found and unearthed. It must be appraised and polished. It must be set in a foundation, or placed on a luxurious velvet pillow for display.  

And even diamonds play best with others—set against other diamonds, rubies, emeralds, silver and gold.   

Believing it’s best to go it alone won’t change the fact I only exist in the context of others and do best when I acknowledge and work with that.   

Uncertainty isn’t the Problem

Most of the problems that arise for me when I’m aiming to make a change, stem from uncertainty.  

Uncertainty visits again, and again when I’m aspiring to a change.  

But It isn’t a problem in itself, unless I’m in the habit reacting to it as a problem.  

It’s the many, many ways I’ve found to react negatively to uncertainty which make me feel bad.  

When a Dry Spell Ends

As I remember it, in a class I took with Josh Ritter, he said, I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in dry spells. Dry spells happen, and I think they happen in every profession.  

At the restaurant I earn my money in, there are days I feel great about my work. And there are days I feel bad about it as well.  

There are days I start off feeling great about the work and by the end it changes. There are also days I start off feeling awful about the work, and by the end, it changes. 

For a writer, (or any person who is their own boss), there’s a temptation to think there’s a choice to show up or not. If a person has a boss, they show up and do the work when they’re scheduled because it’s how they keep the job. There’s an axiom which says early is on time, on time is late, and if you are late, you’re fired. Which is to say, lots of people view work for the perspective of a hammer looking for a nail; It’s something you do whether you want to or not.  

A different way frame could be: 

When you show up you never know what will happen. 

Sooner or later the dry spell ends.  

And it will end while doing the work.  

It never ends otherwise. 

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