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Distractibility and the Modern Writer

            
            I
don’t know about you, but I have always had trouble concentrating or focussing
deeply on something for extended periods of time. I tend to get distracted
relatively easily when thinking of new ideas. Ignoring the potentially
undiagnosed pathology of this symptom, I find it is pretty common among my creative
friends: artists of all kinds from singers to writers to painters to dancers.
            My
hypothesis (or excuse for my behaviour, depending on how you look at it) is
that I always have a lot going on in my mind. It’s like I sometimes have
trouble keeping up with the ideas that come to me. Is this a thing that happens
to some of you, too, or am I just crazy here? I can’t count the number of times I
have had a brilliant idea on the subway or bus home, and by the time I get home
it is gone or, at best, diluted beyond salvation.
            It
took me a long time, but I eventually caught on to this pattern. Inevitably, my
“brilliant” insight or idea is overtaken in my mind by something trivial like
what I plan to make for dinner or wear the next day. Some effective strategies
for avoiding this for me included making a note of my idea in the note feature
on my phone or iPod. Another strategy I used was trying to repeat the idea or
reframe it in my mind. The scientist in me figured this helped forge more
neural connections from different areas of my memory to stabilize my new idea,
thus making it easier to recall sort of like a web instead of a single strand.
            I
think the reality is that we live in a fast-paced world that rarely stays
stagnant for longer than a millisecond. Sometimes I seek out the busyness of a
cafe or library because it seems the multiple stimuli is the exposure my brain
is used to, so it actually gets distracted less. However, I know for a fact
this is not the case for many people. For me, I find there are too many “distractibles”
at home (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, anything other than work…)
to be productive.

The other side
of that of course is the fact I’m sitting in a Starbucks, the alternative music
is playing at a relatively high volume, and I’m more focused on the nerdy aspects
of the musical style than writing this blog post. So whether or not any of this
makes sense has yet to be determined (by you, the readers, I suppose). In any
case, I hope that my slightly distracted ramblings have provided a little
insight into the challenges that come with distractibility while you’re trying
to write and maybe a couple helpful strategies for overcoming them.

3 Comments

  • femmeflashpoint

    I do okay writing blogs of short content in a public area, like a park or coffee shop. I even find it helpful in the development of additional ideas, which I rely on Evernote to store for me.

    But, for bigger projects I do best in a quiet area, preferably outside, if the weather's nice, with a thermos and a cup of steaming coffee to help me stay in the zone.

    That's when the work doesn't feel like work. 🙂

    Good read!

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