Sparkly Objects All Around   14 comments

January 20, 2020

What are your top three distractions and how do you deal with them?

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Life is Distracting

Life is incredibly distracting. There’s the kids, the spouse, the house, the pets, the Internet, the phone, Netflix, Hulu, my friends, my siblings, books, church, the gym, summer, the furnace, making dinner, my friends at Bible study, the woodstove, the houseplants, my coworkers, the news, the Democratic debates, Trump’s antics, the hysteria of both Democrats and Trump supporters, Facebook, Twitter, Austrian economics, Medium, You-Tube, Word Press, my husband’s company, my father-in-law, my-mother-in-law, (occasionally) my brother and my recently-discovered sister, Ancestry.com, the neighbors … yeah, I could go on and on.

Yup, it might be easier to say what isn’t a distraction these days. We live in the Age of Distraction. We’re constantly trying to amuse ourselves. Amuse – a (meaning “none) + muse (meaning “thinking”) = no thinking. We are surrounded by things of less-value that constantly try to distract us from things of greater value.

And I’m trying to publish two novels this year. Yeah, I don’t need distractions in 2020 and I definitely can’t be a-musing. Writers need to think. I need to think. I need to get into the head of my characters and bring forth their stories.

My Big Three

The OP asks for three top distractions. Selecting from hundreds wasn’t easy, but here we go.

  • My husband
  • The news
  • Social media

Husbands – Am I Interrupting You?

I used to be able to say kids, but our 27-year-old daughter is a gypsy musician traveling the Lower 48 and our 21-year-old son, while he lives at home, is a quiet person whose most distracting behavior is playing guitar in his room (he’s actually getting quite good).

I love my husband Brad and he is very supportive of my writing, but sometimes he can’t seem to understand that there are times when, in order for me to get an idea from my brain through my fingers to the electronic page, I need him to SHUT THE HECK UP.

I’m really good with distraction. I grew up in small Alaska houses where everybody lived in one room, television blaring, conversations swirling, and you retreated to your bedroom only for bed (or algebra. I never could do algebra, carry on a conversation, and watch television all at the same time). I’m really good at screening out distractions. I can write while watching television, while the neighbor is mowing his lawn, while the kids were jumping around in the living room or while the dog chased her stuffed animal across the carpet. I really am good with distractions.

Except when I’m not. Sometimes, there’s just thoughts, turns of phrases or descriptions that I really need to concentrate on to write it the way I want. And Brad is really, really, REALLY good at interrupting my thought-flow right when I don’t need him to.

He means well. Last night it was a simply question –

  • Brad – “Do you want tea?”
  • Me – “Yes.”
  • Brad – “What kind of tea?”
  • Me – “Doesn’t matter.”
  • Brad – “But there’s four different kinds here. Do you want the Bengal Spice, the Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland, the Orange Spice, or the Apple Cinnamon?”
  • Me – “You’re interrupting my thoughts.”
  • Brad – “It’ll just take a moment.”
  • Me – (The image is fading. No, come back.) “How about you make the decision and let me think?
  • Brad – “So you don’t want tea?”
  • Me – (Urrggghhhh!) “No, never mind. Let’s now have a conversation since the thought I was trying to capture just ran off to the Delta Glacier, never to be seen again. Yes, make me tea, I want the Bengal Spice, and let me close my laptop since I’m going to get nothing else of worth accomplished tonight.”

Brad and I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. We’ve been making tea for each other for 35 years. He KNOWS what tea I like and that I stop drinking caffeine after 7 pm. He also knows that he could give me any of those four flavors and I’d be good with his choice. Heck, he’s given me just hot water before and I didn’t complain – scarcely noticed if I was chasing a powerful image out of my mind onto the page. But, yeah, at least once a week, he is a major distraction.

News

Say what you will about the times we live in – the news is hyperbolic. It’s been going on for a while now. Clinton (Bill, with Hillary as the wind beneath his wings) was going to destroy America. Bush 2 was going to destroy the world. Obama was destroying the middle class. Trump is going to implode the galaxy.

I studied to be a journalist and worked for a couple of years at our hometown newspaper, so I have an interest in the news. When we had cable television, the news was on a lot. Then we cut the cord and now the news is only on if we go looking for it on You-Tube. But my god, you could get so caught up in it all — watching Nancy Pelosi try to stage a coup and Trump try to avoid the knife and the 357 Democratic candidates try to throw each under the bus, while the CNN anchors turn blue waiting for World War 3 to break out while freaking out over Trump’s latest twitter storm and whether Bernie is a sexist or if the statements his Iowa field supervisor made on tape are a sign that at least some in his organization want a Marxist regime. Thank God we only have You-Tube and not CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS, and BBC.

I don’t watch the news all that often anymore. I do scan Reuters and our local newspaper daily and there are a few libertarian analysis sites I go to more than once a week, but for the most part, I don’t hang on every moment of the news because — DISTRACTING.

But Brad does like to catch some news programs on You-Tube. Remember what I said about being really good with distraction. That doesn’t bother me. I can watch a news program while writing a book – usually. Except he sometimes wants to talk about it and he figures his wife — former journalist with a political science minor — probably would like to weigh in. After all, I do know something about the topic — more than the average viewer. I show that when I write Transformation Project. So why don’t I watch the program?

Well, sometimes I am writing a story that has nothing to do with political science. The YA I’m writing currently has a main character who knows nothing about politics and doesn’t want to. That is so appropriate for a 17-year-old!

I began publishing Transformation Project before Donald Trump became president. I never really saw that coming, so I have to constantly remind myself that he’s not part of the mythology. The deceased President Dotson is based on a Michael Bloomberg-like character with a dash of Richard Nixon thrown in. It’s hard to keep Trump out of Transformation Project when Brad is watching the Milwaukee Keep America Great Rally on You-Tube. Then he cuts to the protesters and counter-protesters outside and pretty soon, I’m not writing, I’m watching and so long as I leave Trump out of it, I can get some great ideas about how people act stupidly when they come to believe the pageantry of the elected nobility matters in real life, but ultimately, I am distracted from writing.

It’s a Village at Your Fingertips

Social media is a great societal good and an immense societal disaster. It’s insta-community and I have over 800 followers. At least 50 of them weigh in regularly to my discussion openers on Facebook. I enjoy doing them and I often get attitudes that are reflected by characters within Transformation Project. Sometimes phrases even work their way in. It’s a great source for inspiration.

And a massive time-suck.

If I let it be. I have easily wasted weekend afternoons that were prime writing time discussing topics that I already have plenty of source material for. People ask you questions, they wish you happy birthday, they post their own stuff and I want to respond … Distracting!

How Do I Deal With It?

Life is about accommodations. If you’ve got a family, you’re blessed. You can’t just leave them to go live on a mountaintop where you can write without interruptions. You shouldn’t desire to do so. Brad interrupts me and sometimes I’m frustrated by that. I remind myself that he can’t read my mind and sometimes his distracting behaviors are because he’s lonely. That will happen to author widowers. I sometimes need to set aside a project for an evening so we can spend time together. I also try to encourage him to pursue his own hobbies when my muse is throwing fast balls and most of the time that works.

Shutting out the world is impossible and probably not helpful in the long run. Brad has a shtick about someone we know who never pays attention to the news emerging from his cave to discover the zombie apocalypse has occurred and he was utterly unaware of it and completely unprepared. Paying at least some attention to the world outside of my writing is a good thing and it makes my coworkers less nervous that I might walk in front of cars while I daydream. But really, unplugging is not a bad thing either. Most people today are WAY too attached to the whole Trump-is-going-to-implode-the-galaxy back-and-forth hysteria. Go do something else and stop freaking out. It’ll resolve itself — and, hint, neither side is particularly right at the moment and perhaps we ought to be more concerned about what they’re trying to distract us from.

Social media – yeah, where the freak-out is really occurring. Yes, I use it for research. Am I on it too much? Probably. Can I let it go? Not entirely. But I also don’t take it as seriously as some of my commenters tend to take it. I also don’t need to “win” the debate. I will keep dealing in principles and making points and letting people be wrong if they want to be wrong. And, even people who I mostly agree with are sometimes wrong. I’m sure they know that experience too.

I relax my grip and don’t sweat stuff I don’t control. And, that’s how I deal with it.

Posted January 20, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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14 responses to “Sparkly Objects All Around

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  1. I agree that social media is a terrible time suck. My resolution for 2020 is to cut down on using it. When Sam finishes work in the evenings I turn off my computer, as he’ll then come to the front room where I work and turn on the TV. I cannot work with the TV on!

    Like

    • I’m good with chaos, so that doesn’t stop me working, but yeah — I’ve cut down on social a lot – only go to Twitter once a week. I do still host my conversations on Facebook and I’ve started doing articles on Medium, but both are audience-generating. I can’t really find evidence that random posts on Facebook or Twitter do anything for book sales and so far MeWe hasn’t generated anything worth mentioning. I’m building it slowly. Maybe someday I’ll dive all in and be surprised, but for now … time sucks with a purpose.

      Liked by 1 person

      • None of the sites do anything for book sales. One of the reasons I think is because readers are now used to getting free books and don’t want to pay.

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      • That is definitely a part of it. There’s a business principle that says if you undercut the prevailing price, you will eventually drive prices to a new low. Free may well be the new low — although I did very well with page reads this last year. It’s not a book sale, but it’s not free and that’s better than nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I do okay with page reads, but I wonder if all Indie authors’ sales have decreased year on year? Mine have decreased from 1142 in 2015 down to 350 last year, but I had 1112 free downloads in 2019.

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      • I don’t offer a lot of free days anymore. One trick to pulling page reads is to keep your sale prices high, which … yeah … it’s a conundrum.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can blank out the world around me, the 37 open tabs on the internet browser are another thing. Especially when they lead me on a wild ride through facts and things that I never knew.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel unpatriotic because of how much I ignore politics these days

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    • Funny. Some of my libertarian friends call themselves patriots BECAUSE they ignore politics. They believe the best thing we can do is just go about our lives as if politicians don’t matter — and be prepared to break the law when politicians violate our right to self-governance. I think theirs is a really brave stance.

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  4. News, now that is a good one which I didn’t think of. You are right, the news can be very distracting and so can the electricity outages we have been suffering here in South Africa, on and off, for months. Worrying about whether our government will be able to manage the corruption, lack of maintenance and lack of skills sufficiently to keep our lights on and business going is a big distraction.

    Like

    • People in the United States are way too focused on the news and it’s making people on both sides of the issues CRAZY. The economy has never been better (in the Lower 48, here in Alaska we’re in a recession), but ask most Democrats and they’re starving to death. It’s like all sense has flown out the window.

      I didn’t know about South Africa’s electrical problems. I knew — in the vaguest sort of way — about the governmental corruption. It would seem the news isn’t doing a very good job there either. Does it tend to focus on sensationalism rather than reality?

      Liked by 1 person

      • FAke news is the name of the game everywhere, I think. You can’t accept anything you read without a further investigation. I know that politics in the US is a bit of a shambles at the moment but your economy is doing well. That is a fact.

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      • Our economy is doing GREAT, which makes one half of our political system absolutely look insane because they refuse to admit how much better things were than under Obama. I don’t have to be a Trump supporter to acknowledge that.

        I believe you folks will be pleasantly surprised at how Brexit improves your economy. It may take a couple of years, but getting out from all those regulations and distant management should really do wonders.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I think so too.

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