Thursday, September 2, 2010

Distractions Are Good for You

Have you ever been writing along and suddenly realize that you’ve become fascinated by your potted plant on the shelf across the room? Or a random thought flits through your mind about how many ladybugs it would take to save the world? Ah, sweet distractions.

Two Kinds of Distractions

I’ve discovered there are two kinds of distractions for me. They are

  1. The temporary kind, i.e., a cardinal sitting on my fence, a squirrel on my deck, or a bunny in the yard.
  2. The longer-term kind, i.e., a decision to create a database of some really esoteric information, i.e., writers’ birthdays.

I can recover from the temporary kind of distraction in a matter of moments or, at the most a minute or two, usually because the object of my fascination leaves my field of vision. Since I don’t feed the birds during the summer because I don’t want them to forget how to forage for themselves, neither the birds nor squirrels come around as often as they do when there is birdseed in the feeders (I keep three of them full the other three seasons of the year). The bunnies don’t visit often because of my four-legged kids.

The recovery time from the longer-term distractions is a little more difficult to predict. This current obsession with this database could go on for years - I have a database of 10,000 notable women that I started many years ago when I was writing speeches for a politician and wanted him to cite some forgotten women of substance. This new database has the feel of that one. However, I’m going to be sensible and spend no more than 30 minutes a day doing the research to build it. Yeah, right. It took me longer than that to decide what the headers should be in the spreadsheet I’m currently using while I create the database.

Distractions Are Good for You

I’m one of those people (perhaps we are a minority) who believe distractions are good for the soul and for the writer. I find that when I return to my WIP (work in progress), I can pick up where I left off and that momentary respite feels like a mini vacation.

The longer distractions work the same way. While I’ve been distracted with my database, a part of the my mind has been working on the WIP so that when I do get back to it, I’ve got a clearer idea of where the scene should be going as opposed to where it had been going.

How easily are you distracted from your writing? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

1 comment:

  1. I guess they are (good) if they are useful distractions and actually help you write otherwise it can be annoying, that is if you realize you distracted yourself from doing something useful.