Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Art of Distraction

As only writers understand, concentration can turn capricious. The focus which must be maintained to generate lucid prose is easily interrupted & can buckle under the pressure exhorted by an unsympathetic will to accomplish-at-any-cost. For a stretch, the mind sustains taut & fluid, words & their accompanying images synergize into elegant, usable sentences. Then like some fast-moving rain cloud, distraction shoots in to block the focus of that earlier intent—we are left hanging.

Each writer possesses favourite methods utilized to prevent this eventual distraction from functional passages of quality work. In the times when we fall short or have been pumped dry, engaging in some activity outside of the actual writing often assists in the desire to renew concentration & to continue refreshed & inspired along the path of our story.

Options for diversion abound: the home always needs something by way of maintenance & business demands which accompany the independent writer are varied. Personally, I chose to engage in a vigorous interlude of some video game. The frenetic pace & rapid eye movement—all that obsessive clicking does something to the squeezed mind, though I am not exactly certain what. After a vigorous session of some high-stakes electronic mayhem, I feel as though something has been released; I feel as though I have done something else.

This seems to be the central point in creating that refreshing distraction.

On days when I am not up to the blitzkrieg of flashing graphics & rapid-firing adrenalin, I turn to the organics. Fussing with house plants or in season, a light session of weeding in my small garden helps to shift the scene. In these quiet moments, I imagine that I understand the ineffable mystery of Zen; I do, albeit mindfully & the migration of attention from the inner-mechanics of a spinning imagination helps to introduce a gentler awareness.

I notice my hands; I look at the topography of the soil. I admire the stages of development a plant passes through. Life becomes more knowable in these moments of calm & I am able to retract an earlier wave of anxiety to settle into what can be discerned of a larger perspective.

These intervals remind me of the process of progress. They assure me that each system of functions has it’s own rhythm, it's own unique pace. Sometimes this works beautifully & I drift back to the writing desk in a serene, enhanced mood. The small break I was forced to take from unsuccessful effort has rejuvenated.

[Images by Robert Mars}


  1. Thanks, Meredith. I certainly needed this post today. I am at the 'fixing' stage of edits where I need to inject some creative elements into otherwise 'dead' passages of my novel. This has really helped in reminding me how to refocus. Appreciated.

  2. That is such tough work, John. Going back and having to come up with fresh material on command. So glad this was helpful and thanks for the comment. Best of luck with your endgame.

  3. I always find time for everything but writing. As much as I enjoy procrastinating I feel I never really get the jobs that are needed to be done are ever completed!

  4. I understand what you mean, Carla. I freed a whack of time when I dusted-off an old crockpot. These are perfect for the stay-at-home writer. Thank you so much for the feedback.