When Distraction Leads to Destination
“She was not quite what you would call refined. She was not quite what you would call unrefined. She was the kind of person that keeps a parrot.” (Mark Twain)
Have you ever tried writing with a parrot on each shoulder? I imagine some of you have. Companion birds are popular pets and often call “shoulder” when it’s time to ride about the house. I truly enjoy it when the Brothers Bob sit and supervise quietly from my shoulders. Sometimes, though, one or both can be quite the distraction. (See photo)
I’m easily distracted. It took me forEVAH to complete “Watching the Water” and “Seeking the Shore.” Yet, I was so motivated to treat my writing like a full-time job after reading that a famous author devotes eight hours a day to writing. Structured. Disciplined. Getting it done.
Well, here’s what happened my first day on the job. With my husband at work and my sons at school, I claimed the home office and pulled my manuscript up on the computer. After rereading a paragraph written sometime in the past, I moved a comma.
Next, I leaned back in the chair and let my eyes travel about the ceiling, as though inspiration might write itself across the plaster. And that’s when I saw them in the corner, shimmering silver in the morning sun filtering through the window blinds.
That was it. I was up and running. I grabbed a broom from the pantry and took down the offender. What if there were more, though? Well, there wouldn’t be for long. That was my sworn vow as I marched through the house and scoped out every corner.
Returning the broom, I noticed the trash needed to be emptied, so I carried it to the can in the garage. Oh heck, might as well push the can to the curb since pick-up was the next day. Outside, I saw that the holly bushes were sprouting antennae and we couldn’t have that. I fired up the electric trimmer and soon sliced through the extension cord. Off to Home Depot…
Before I knew it, eight hours had passed – and I’d moved one comma.
At this rate, the New York Time’s Best Sellers List was looking pretty unattainable. Ditto for the movie deal.
I wish I could say that time has shown me strategies for overcoming distractions, those little imps that infiltrate our lives. But the truth is, my tendency to wander has only grown since the arrival of social media. I’ve gotten better at silencing distractions for the short term, though. Now when the laundry buzzer goes off, I don’t succumb to the “should” of folding and putting away. I just dash upstairs and start the dryer cycle again. So easy!
I discovered a quote that is now a favorite: “Not all who wander are lost.”´ How true. Some of the most picture-worthy scenery is discovered when we explore off-road or end up on a route we hadn’t planned to take. An aimless walk through the woods or along the shore is more balm for the soul than a mapped out journey squeezed between deadlines. The very things that draw our eyes away from a task can become the momentary treasures that bring perspective, hope, a sweet memory, or maybe just a second of take your breath away.
Distractions, or wanderings, actually began sparking ideas several years ago when I wrote a weekly column for a Christian/inspirational website. For example, once when the washing machine called me away from the computer, I discovered that all the single pieces of clothes were clumped together. They came out as a group hug, gnarled and twisted together by a single pink thread. This became an analogy, and an article, about how one thing – anger, fear, anything – can wind its way through every facet of our lives and jumble it all up.
Almost everything that distracted me became the basis of an article. And believe me, that gave me a deep well of material to draw from. Looking back, I think it was the Lord’s way of just working with me on this problem of distraction.
See, I just got distracted by a past column instead of my upcoming releases. Obviously, I finally got them finished and learned that there is no one-size-fits-all to getting a project done. Some work their craft best between sunup and sundown, while others prefer to stay awake and rendezvous with their muse after midnight. Some can only produce from a specific location while others can whip out the laptop and create anywhere from a crowded elevator to a crest of Everest. Whatever the goal, we all find our own way and that might include wandering various roads before we discover the best path for us.
I also learned that books aren’t written – they’re RE-Written and RE-written until a publisher says they’re right. I’ll talk about editing a manuscript in another post and what it takes to polish one and … oh look, there’s a bird on my head …