How to Deal with Distractions by Sacha Chua

Image by Sacha Chua and released under a CC BY 2.0 License

One of the biggest challenges any creative person faces is distraction. Okay, you got me: it’s one of my biggest challenges, so I’m extrapolating outward from my own experience. I generally don’t recommend this practice, but it’s probably a safe bet in this case.

Our work-in-progress starts out as the most fascinating thing in our lives. We love to spend time with it, mulling it over and coming up with a plan for whatever it is we are doing. We catch ourselves thinking about it in the shower, in the car, and daydreaming about it at work. It’s way more fun that whatever it is we’re doing at any given moment, so we can’t wait to start working on it!

We say, “Hey, I can work on that tonight after work! Oh, wait, I promised The Husband that we’d go out to dinner tonight. After dinner then. Yes, but I wanted to run by Barnes and Noble to pick up that novel that was just released. Okay, so after dinner and the BN run.”

In the BN, The Husband decides he wants a cherry cola. You sit with him while he drinks it, thinking “This is great! I can work on my project now! Let me just check Facebook. Oh crap, the HVAC at work is broken again! Better ping all the people I work with to make sure they know to dress comfortably tomorrow. Then I’ll get right on my project!”

Once you get home, you finally have a few minutes to work, so you get out the computer, knitting needles, pencils–whatever it is you create with.

And you stare at your tools. The work isn’t gelling right away, so you stare some more.

Then you think “Hum. Let me see how the HVAC thing is going at work. It’ll just take a second–look at that cute cat photo! Oh! And look at the cool thing Peter Capaldi said about Doctor Who!” An hour later, your work is undone. Now you are tired and just want to vegetate on the sofa watching reruns of Drag Race.

What happened?

Distraction happened, ya’ll.

Distraction is the death of so many creative works that it’s like the last person standing at the end of a zombie flick. There she is, holding the crowbar covered with the lifeblood of all of your good ideas as the credits roll up the screen. The only difference is that these credits list the half-written blog posts, abandoned knitting projects, and incomplete sketches that she clobbered to death before they had a chance to leave the nest and fly free as finished work.

So here’s me, pointing out Distraction and saying No More. When I sit down to create, I will turn off the notifications. I will cut a deal with family for at least a small block of uninterrupted time. I will focus on the work and not let the latest shiny idea or funny cat picture derail me from the work until my scheduled creative time is finished for the day.

What distracts you when you’re creating? How do you settle down and focus on your work? Share your tips in the comments!

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