The Devil is in the Distractions

“ — you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
way”

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…

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?

2 thoughts on “The Devil is in the Distractions”

  1. Distractions they says are opportunities but I do not find this so most of the time. If I do find time by myself I usually want to just veg on a book or watch a good movie because I very seldom am alone. I sometimes write at night after everyone is in bed but by then my mind is tired and I make tons of mistakes that take time to correct. Recently we were at my daughters where we have an rv parked. My vision for vacation was to write, write, write on my book. As soon as my daughter hugged me and said she was so glad I was there to help her I laid my book aside and never wrote one word. But, here is the important thing. It’s been a long time since I felt that relaxed and refreshed. I did nothing but be with my daughter and grand children. I believe in my heart, the book will get finished, or not. I think everyday we must weigh it and those who are in it and chose to invest in them, one on one if possible. Word the normal hours, play a few hours, invest in others in all of it. When I write now I am writing better, more is flowing from me. It’s simple stuff so I don’t write hard things like you do, what a gifted mind you have. I just had to decide what is the most important thing I do, it different everyday usually which takes old fashion flexibility. Keep flexing brother…things will get done. Thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so beautiful. I think I’m learning, or trying to learn, to live fully in each day, one day at a time. Which I know sounds so simple and obvious and cliche, and something you evidently learned to do some time ago, but it’s such a refreshing thing when I manage to genuinely lay aside the distractions of future plans and goals or whatever else, and just simply be fully present; connected with the moment and people who are there with me in it. I don’t always succeed at this, my mind is often an overactive one, but I do think I’m getting better. I really feel that that old fashioned flexibility you mention is the key. I love this comment you’ve shared though. It really reminds me of how there can be a difference between what our hearts need and what our minds may think we want. So cool how refreshing you found the time with your daughter. I think I’m slowly learning to pay attention to those similar experiences in my own life too, and learn to trust them; learn to let go.

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