About 15 years ago, an interviewer asked me “What inspires you creatively?” I blurted out the first thing that came to mind… “The smell of Pine-Sol!”. I thought the poor interviewer was going to choke on her coffee!
A common complaint among writers is the issue of not having enough time to write. True enough, life can get in the way of pursuing our passion. Regardless of the best time management strategies, navigating around distractions is equally important in that equation in order to help maintain focus and clarity of thought.
I do not think that cutting distractions out completely is a realistic goal, but trying to achieve a peaceful coexistence with them is perhaps the better approach.
When I said “the smell of Pine-Sol” to the interviewer, I did not mean it literally, it was more of a metaphor. Back then, shortly after I would sit down to write, I would pause to look off into the distance to catch the next brain wave. My gaze would then scan the room and take notice of the lint on the beige carpeting, the dusty shelf and the ironing pile. The closet was becoming an avalanche-waiting-to-happen at any moment. The bathroom started screaming for attention. Dust bunnies marched in like the devil’s children. How can I concentrate on my blog-of-the-week with this domestic horror movie going on around me? “The smell of Pine-Sol” in the air was a sign to me that my housecleaning was completed and that I could truly focus on my writing without distractions.
I don’t use Pine-Sol anymore but managing distractions (like the housekeeping) is still a work-in-progress. Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:
Take care of some distractions before you begin
One compromise that works for me is to take care of some of the more urgent distractions before I start a writing session. With some of those urgent and critical tasks completed and out of the way, I find it easier to focus and concentrate. It is simply a question of balance: responsibly meeting our obligations while still offering ourselves the freedom to pursue our goals and dreams.
Develop a system for capturing ideas while you tend to other things
Even though some distractions will still be there an hour later, the next great idea might not be. To be sure I don’t miss out on those gems, I keep a notepad and pen in every room in the house to capture those great ideas as they happen.
When I multi-task, I admit that I am sometimes on auto-pilot. During that time, ideas that were recently committed to paper tend to “incubate” or “ferment” as new ideas, linkages, better ways of saying things and “aha” moments start to kick in. Then I go back to the piece and update, edit or reformulate. Then I go back to the other tasks, scoop up a few more “aha” moments in the back of my mind, then go back to the piece. Alternation works well for me.
Use the break to refresh your perspective
The distraction of another task can also be the break that you might need to step away from your masterpiece, refresh your perspective and approach, then return your work with a fresh pair of eyes. This is effective for editing and proofreading.
Cut yourself some slack
There are some weeks that are heavy with commitments. That is a fact of life. There is no need to get frustrated when that happens. Leverage the weeks that are not as heavy with commitments and squeeze all the free time you can get out of them in the pursuit of your goals.
Distractions do not have to be a bad thing if you learn to take advantage of them within your creative process. It gets easier with time.
Regardless of the goal you strive to achieve in life, if you have a hard time minimizing distractions, learning to work around them or with them is a path to consider in making the consistent progress to help you reach your goal.
I think distractions are the universe’s way of challenging us to strengthen our resolve to work toward our dreams. I believe they are the universe’s way of asking, “How badly do you want it?”
How you respond is up to you.
What has worked for you in navigating around distractions while in the pursuit of your dreams? Feel free to share your ideas by commenting below.
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