“ — you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
Charles Bukowski wrote these words at the opening to his poem, Air and Light and Space and Time more than twenty years ago. And it’s a fun poem – dry, caustic, chatty; typical Bukowski really, taking irreverent aim at the ways we kid ourselves into not doing the stuff we really need to. For most of us those words, ‘something has always been in the way,’ remain a variation on a familiar theme.
I mean, just take a peek at any creative’s help-list, or writer’s guide, or run down of the-top-ten-rules-for-being-successful at this or that, and you’ll come across the same thing.
Like how writer and painter Henry Miller, when working on what would become his first published novel, took time to devise a list of eleven ‘commandments’ he’d make part of his daily routine in order to complete it, the eleventh being to ‘write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.’
Or bestselling novelist, John Grisham, when speaking about his own work routine saying, “I start each day about 7:30am, my office has no phones, fax [or] internet.”
Or how about author Jonathan Franzen, who shares the same habit as Grisham and once confessed to locking himself in his office and wearing “earplugs, earmuffs, and a blindfold,” to get the best from himself.
It seems to me they each saw distraction as the enemy, the troll under the bridge, the chief obstacle to reaching their goal of finishing whatever project they’d begun working on — an idea that I – as I hammer away at my current WiP – feel especially able to relate to, and one, according to the research, that’s fairly accurate. A few statistics to consider…
- At present, the average worker admits to frittering away up to 3 hours per 8 hour work day on non-work-related activities (not including their lunch break).
- Over three quarters of workers with a Facebook account admit to using it during working hours.
- Whilst more than half of all US workers believe using social media at work is hurting their productivity.
In other words, this problem isn’t something exclusive to writers and artists. It affects everyone. The thing I’m wondering (asking for a friend) is why?
Why are we so easily distracted?
Why is focusing so tough?
I mean sure, there’s the obvious culprits – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email etc., and that’s without even mentioning the more stayed conveniences like television (the number of channels on which have probably quadrupled in the last ten years alone).
But I can’t help feeling there’s more to it than that, something more fundamental, even part of our wiring as humans perhaps. Then again, maybe I’m just trying to find a way to feel better about my less than stellar word count this week; and how much further along I’d hoped and expected to be with the manuscript I’m currently working on.
What do you think?
You easily distracted from work and goals? And if so, what are your tips for overcoming it? How do you get the stuff done?