I don’t know if all you writers out there are aware of this, but the blogosphere is rife with suggestions for saving us from distraction, keeping us focused and productive at our desks. Apparently, we’re a distractible lot and we need top ten lists with practical advice such as: write by hand, turn off your cell phone, and listen to white noise, in order to get anything done. If you’re feeling contrary, a little stir crazy from all the cold and snow, and would rather distract yourself and waste precious writing time, I’m here to help. My top seven distractions!
7. Rearrange something. Best Bets: desk drawers, bookshelves, junk drawer, art supplies, stack of bedside books, closet, refrigerator (but that’s no fun at all), houseplant corner, or if you’re in a really bad way, an entire room, including furniture (the arrangement of my study changes every month).
6. Read distractedly. Best Bets: vintage dictionaries, encyclopedias, guides to things like shells and fungi, and other large reference books. True distracted reading involves opening a book at random, reading a paragraph at most, and moving on to another book. The entire activity shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes or you’re not really distracted enough. And, the goal isn’t to retain information or come up with a great idea; this is essentially intended to be a restless intellectual activity which bears no fruit. Save your good intentions for another day! My favorite reference distractions are old medical dictionaries with copious descriptions and vintage magazines.
5. Begin a self-healing regimen right now and get really obsessive and preachy about it. Best Bets: a cleanse followed by a raw food diet, yin yoga, meditation, book a weekend at a monastery, listen to hypnosis CDs by Glen Harrold, learn Japanese face massage, commit to run a half-marathon or walk the Appalachian Trail, better yet, the Camino de Santiago.
4. Blogs, Pinterest. If you’re feeling particularly uncreative why not make yourself feel worse by looking at photos and reading details of other people’s unnatural, manic creativity. Best Bets: this, this, and this. And my favorite crafty blog.
3. Obsessively check stats, websites where your work, interview or review was supposed to be posted two months ago, or google your professional persona and book titles just to see if anything great happened the last time you were distracted from this task by some writing project.
2. Rip books apart to make cut and paste poetry, flash fiction or erasure. It may not technically be ‘writing’ but you can fool yourself and have some fun.
1. Watch the cat sleep, no, study your cat in repose (if you don’t have a cat I’ve included a photo of mine for your consideration). Cats have mastered the art of doing absolutely nothing and from what I can see, feeling not a bit of shame over it. If you’ve performed this directive correctly you’ll wake quietly an hour later in a soft nest of blankets looking not unlike my cat Meeps. But where Meeps wakes kneading the blankets, his dreams filled with blood and puncture wounds….. hey that’s not so bad….