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The Power of Distraction

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If your life is anything like mine, there are days distractions swoop in and take over. The actual to-do list taps its fingers on the desk, waiting, but the minute I start one thing, I’m sidetracked by the need to do something more urgent. Looking back, I’ve found that the urgent item rarely turns out to be more important than the original.

Distractions are everywhere in our noisy world. I had no idea how much time I spent online until my computer crashed. At first, I felt antsy and anxious. Then I realized the world would not come to a screeching halt if I didn’t check my email—or Facebook–16 times a day.

Distractions are sneaky, too. If we’re not paying attention, we get swept along. Sometimes, even a to-do list distracts us, because the weight of all those undone items crushes our momentum.

When I found myself suddenly and unwillingly unplugged, it brought me up short. Things shifted. Priorities fell into the appropriate slot. Focus came back.

And then came the big breakthrough. I’d been avoiding my work in progress because I knew the beginning wasn’t right. Worse, I had no earthly idea how to fix it.

I’d been using distractions as a convenient excuse for not dealing with the problem.

Florida finally got some much-needed rain this week, so I had an unexpected day off. I opted to clean my office.

Normally, that’s a clear avoidance technique, but this time I turned it into something useful. Something deliberate. While I was sorting and rearranging, I mulled over my story. About what was wrong with it. And how to fix it.

Like the big light bulb we see in comic strips, the answer finally popped into my head. But only after I’d let my brain chew on it awhile, without obsessing and stressing. After a big sigh of relief and a huge, “Yes!” I’m ready to move forward again.

Used right, distractions can be a good thing. Have you found that to be true in your life?

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    The Conversation

  1. Beth Trissel says:

    Excellent post. And you are so right, distractions and to do lists get in the way of what really needs to be done. I also stall with a WIP when I’m consciously or unconsciously stuck. Glad you fixed yours. Fingers crossed for mine.

    • Connie Mann says:

      You’ll get your breakthrough, too, Beth! Don’t give up. Nothing like a little focused distraction to let your subconscious find a solution! Let me know how it goes…

  2. Katy Lee says:

    So glad the lightbulb came on for you! But remember it’s okay to turn off the Internet. Your world won’t collapse if you do. 🙂

    So as I’m reading this, I suddenly remembered all the things I had to do. So, I’m off to get my list done.

    • Connie Mann says:

      LOL, Katy. I hear you. I’m trying to be much more conscious of how much time I spend online. It felt good to be unplugged awhile. Hope you get everything done on your list today!

  3. What an on-time post for me, Connie. Glad I stumbled onto it as I forced myself away from watching Novak Djokovic begin his probable steam-roll process toward another win at the French Open Tennis Championships.

    I so relate to what you’re saying about wips and knowing something needs to be fixed. I’ve been letting go of at least three lately, wondering constantly how other writers can be exploding with ideas. Used that time too, to address the things that needed attention (i.e., gardening and cleaning beyond the ‘baseline cleaning’ I do to make my home appear like someone is trying, lol. In the meantime, mulling over that ms can result in a light bulb. Luckily, mine went on too, just last night!

    Be well and best wishes fleshing out your wip/ms issues!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Joanna, Hooray for your lightbulb moment! Doesn’t that feel wonderful? Glad you hung in there. And glad my post encouraged you.

      PS–I’m always envious of anyone who goes beyond “baseline cleaning.” 🙂

  4. Julie Robinson says:

    Yes, distraction is a big thing for me. I’d catch myself wandering about, seemingly useless, and chastise myself until I realized that I was doing my thinking then. But I feel better when I’m being more productive while thinking—like washing the dishes or weeding the garden. So I’ve been trying to channel my thinking time into physically useful time as well. Though i do love to just sit and think while having a cup of coffee or tea.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Hi Julie, like you, I prefer doing something “productive” while I’m thinking whenever I can. But I also love sitting with a cup of coffee and a notepad. I’ve heard Agatha Christie quoted as saying she got some of her best plot ideas while doing the dishes.

      Here’s to whatever works and helps us make progress with our stories!

  5. Julie Robinson says:

    Thank you. I needed that.