Sunday, September 11, 2011

Distracting Currents

It happened again this past week.

One morning after I finished breakfast, put up a pot of coffee, and set my manuscript on the kitchen table to start work, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check my e-mail before sitting down to write.

And checking e-mail turned into a fifty minute distraction--messages from readers, friends, students, colleagues; updates on my Facebook account; new Tweets to follow.

And then, while sitting at my computer, the phone rang... and, of course, I had to answer it.

After hanging up I went back to the kitchen, not to start work on that manuscript but to get something to eat.

By the time I looked up at the clock, I realized that the morning was gone.

In that split-second decision when I turned away from the manuscript, I thought it would only take a moment to check my e-mail.

I hadn’t imagined responding to messages or checking Facebook or signing into Twitter, just checking in to see if anything urgent was waiting for me.

But the moment I sat down at my computer and signed in, I found my mind disengaging from the difficult work of diving into a manuscript and, instead, relaxing into the ease of responding to messages and the pleasure of reading the work of other writers.

And, looking back, I’m sure that part of what pulled me away from the manuscript was precisely this desire for pleasure as much as the desire to avoid the challenging (and sometimes uncomfortable) work of revisions.

Instead of diving deeply into a manuscript and searching for emotional truths still hidden on the page, I made the decision to step off the diving board and let myself be distracted by a different current.

Admittedly, there are days when I have only enough emotional strength to step into a shallow current, to explore links and answer e-mail messages and check Facebook postings and talk on the phone.

But there are other days when I can delude myself into thinking that checking e-mail will only take a moment, when, instead of sticking to my plan, I veer off course purely on a whim or because of a hidden fear that I may not have what it takes to dive today.

That’s how I can end up in a current of distractions.

Some days I find myself in a sink hole, unable to get out. Other days I can manage to step out of the current and return to my original plan, just a bit later than I'd intended to start.

The key to sticking to my plan is to remind myself what’s most important.

Is it checking e-mail, hanging out with friends on Facebook, sending another Tweet?

Or is it getting the words on paper?

What about you?

How do you manage to stick to your plan to write rather than letting yourself be swept away by a distracting current?

How do you overcome your urge to step into that current and, instead, stay on the diving board and jump back into your work?

Write and let us know when you get a chance.

For more on avoiding distractions, visit:

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