Whether it is a symphony of leaf blowers, a neighbour’s dog barking for hours, another neighbour’s ailing muffler, a charming visitor to the neighbourhood who needs to turn the car alarm on and off seven times, or the apparent decision to suddenly reroute all air traffic directly above my house, auditory distractions are a fact of life.
Then add to the mix an extroverted attention-seeking cat, a ringing home phone, an empty coffee cup, a ringing doorbell, a load of laundry ready for drying, and the ding to indicate that my gluten-free banana bread is ready to come out of the oven.
When I reach into my desk drawer for a USB stick, I find a pair of old glasses that needs to be donated, I spot the case for the iPhone I carried in 2009 (that won’t fit anything today) and before I know it, I am in spring cleaning mode.
As I head back to my desk, I notice the wall I have been meaning to spackle in preparation for painting.
Moments later, I remember that the litter box needs “refreshing”.
When I finally return to my blog post, I write a few words and then take a moment to stare off into the distance between paragraphs. My mind drifts and I ask myself, “when was the last time I dusted that shelf?”
When I look in the other direction, I see Ivy the Wonder Cat’s favourite blanket and think to myself that it is probably due for a thorough washing.
At this rate, it’s a wonder that I succeed in publishing a weekly blog post.
I sometimes think that to get away from distractions (many of which are of my own doing), writing away from home is the answer.
Where I used to be baffled by how roving writers could work in a bustling coffee shop or in the middle of a shopping mall, I actually understand it now. It’s just a way of managing certain types of distractions, but accepting that other ones might take their place.
There have been times when I have had to exercise significant willpower and to set boundaries like not giving in to the magnetic draw of a window that needs washing at a time when I should be writing. I reassure myself that I come from a long line of compulsive cleaners and dust bunny whisperers, so I come by it honestly.
But when that hasn’t worked, I have been immensely grateful for my little laptop computer and the opportunity to find other locations to commit words to the screen to save me from myself.
For an experience that leans more toward the quiet side, I have brought the laptop to a nearby library, which has proven to be a very productive alternative. The only issue is when my walnut sized bladder kicks in, and I stop what I’m doing, I pack up the laptop, the mittens, the scarf, the tuque, the winter coat and head to the loo, only to return and find that my perfect table with a view has been taken.
A couple of times, I have treated myself to an overnight stay at a hotel for some binge blogging time. With no shelves to be dusted, no laundry, no ironing, it’s just me, my laptop, my notes, a beautiful view, and all of the silence that my travel app was able to find me at a nicely discounted price.
I was most delighted to hear that the late Dr. Maya Angelou regularly rented hotel rooms for the purpose of writing, sometimes to the point of declining “housekeeping” in order to maintain her train of thought.
Similarly, when I hear that J.K. Rowling was able to write the first Harry Potter book from cafés in Edinburgh, I think to myself that wondrous things could come from being a roving writer, away from the distractions of home.
But there are times that the little writer’s voice talks me out of it. Sometimes those mindless distractions of home are actually helpful for ideas to ferment.
On quiet mornings, before the world is in high gear (and after Ivy has had her breakfast), I can easily write for an hour (sometimes two) without interruption. Once my focus starts to drift, I might do something else like unloading the dishwasher or spot cleaning a bathroom, but ideas might continue to trickle in. For that reason, I need to keep the computer open to capture those ideas.
Similarly, when hitting the shower following a writing session, I have cursed the little writing voice for throwing more ideas at me when I really have nothing to write on. I have tried scribbling ideas with a bar of soap on the shower wall with some success, but that meant hurrying the shower before the ideas literally wash away.
My errands have also gone a little sideways when the perfect idea to put a nice neat bow on a blog post hits me, while trying to run errands.
In the car, I might repeat the idea to myself (out loud) as many times as possible to be sure I don’t lose it, drawing stares from neighbouring drivers wondering who I am talking to so emphatically, especially when I forget that one of the back windows is rolled down.
All that to say, ideas can keep flowing whether I am focused specifically on writing or not.
Sometimes inspiration comes from being somewhere else or doing something else, rather than staring at the screen wishing the right words will come along.
Figuring out when it is best to stay and hold on, near the computer, as opposed to walking away is the tricky part. (Why do I feel a Kenny Rogers song coming on?)
While I wholeheartedly relish the peace and solitude of being alone with my thoughts with minimal distractions, over the years I have discovered and accepted that ideas can come anywhere, anytime.
And sometimes a change of scenery and change in focus are the solution to keep the ideas flowing.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,