Sunday 20 October 2019

Distracted - Joan Lennon

Charlie Chaplin in Pay Day (1922)
(wiki commons)

I am at the two thirds stage of writing a novel, and I am in the sludge.  I recognise this stage.  I know it's just a question of slogging on through.  I am not enjoying the slog.  And I am in the throes of excessive distractability.  So when I saw an article online on Nir Eval's theories about the nature of distraction, I downed tools and had a read.  (Okay, if I'm honest, I read a bit, got distracted, came back and read a bit more, got distracted ...)

I don't buy the whole package Nir Eyal is proposing - for example, I think that not everything we do is "prompted by the desire to escape discomfort." "It's pain all the way down" is not my kind of mantra.  But the nub of the argument - that distraction doesn't start with the technology out there - it starts with us - I certainly recognised.  

"We use these devices as psychological pacifiers as we are looking for an escape from uncomfortable sensations. And if we don't deal with that fact, we will always find distraction somewhere."

Part of dealing with that fact might be to find out what other people are saying about distraction.  There have been, for example, excellent ABBA posts on the topic - have a visit, for example, to Chitra Soundar's Seven Habits of a Highly Distracted Writer, Clementine Beauvais' On Not Trusting Your Future Self, or Andrew Strong's How to Be Creative.  (Go on - it's an educational and entertaining way of not getting down to, you know, the writing.)

But, yup, this distractability I acknowledge mine, to paraphrase the Bard.  Also, I have no magic cure.  I still have to do the slog, in order to get past the sludge.  I break it down into baby steps, use the timer, mark up every 100 words achieved, give myself tons of tiny treats, and distract the other people in the house who are also trying to write/draw with corking* challenges.

This too shall pass.  (Off now to find out where that comes from ...)

* Corking is a not-quite-yet-Olympic sport where you try to throw Prosecco corks into an empty cat food box from a distance.  Feelings run high.  It is eminently distracting.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.


Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for this neat little bit of distraction, Joan.

I only recently heard about the self-soothing aspect of distraction, and have found it quite interesting and useful to think "Why am I doing this?"
And then listen for the answer.

Joan Lennon said...

Right - I'm off to look that up! And THEN, onward.

Susan Price said...

Completely agree, Joan. Nor do I think distraction is, always, a bad thing. When we concentrate for any length of time, our thoughts get wound up and tense and it's in just that state that we tend to take the easier, more predictable path.

If, after concentrating for a short while, you allow yourself to be distracted, then all that tension slackens off. Our thoughts (especially our subconscious thoughts) drift and float -- and it's in that distracted state that creativity often happens. Two or three floating, distracted thoughts drift together, join up and produce something that you never would have invented with concentration alone.

Anne Booth said...

I was too busy trying to write my own blog post today to follow up these lovely distractions, but I am planning to be distracted by them asap. Thank you! And I like the points Susan and Penny make.

Joan Lennon said...

Brains, eh? We need to be kind to the strange wee things.