Distraction, Or the Fort of Doom

I could tell you about the time that I snuck into the real Fangorn Forest, or that time that I accidentally sat on a Maori sacred statue…the time I got lost in Paris…but here’s the thing.  I’m kind of stuck.

Truth time: I’m sitting in the middle of a book fort as I write this.  The walls are so tall that every time I move, it leans ominously inwards.  I admit, it’s quite a strange predicament to be in on a Friday morning that was meant to be a productive writing session!  It started out as a small tower—a place to put books as I organized the bookshelf—a good, productive journey on the road to cleanliness and order.  The more the tower grew, the more curious I became about how tall it could get.  I expanded it to make a wall…a few turrets…you know the story.  By the time I was putting the roof on the last tower it was too late—I was swept up into a wind tunnel of distraction.

The Fort of Doom

Distraction: it’s a serious problem even if you don’t wind up mired in book fort madness. A symphony of chirps and cell-phone buzzes drags me back into the real world far too often and the siren call of the full inbox never seems to get any less enticing.

So how do you avoid distraction?

I read once that there are two types of procrastination—the good kind that lets your story percolate until it is ready…and the bad kind that I suspect might involve building book forts, watching reruns of Friends, painting the dog’s toenails…just to avoid the fear that comes with not writing perfectly.

Just in case you are in the same place I am, here are some ways to extricate yourself from the fort of doom:

1. Selective focus-give all your attention to what you are working on right now…then move on to the next task.

2. Build in breaks so you don’t snap.

3. Nix the phone, shut the door, put the headphones on

4. Ignore the perilous email ding—remember that like all sirens, it wants to lure you out into the waters of distraction and pull you under.

5. Relax.  The ideas are in there somewhere.  Trust that they will come with or without a snazzy book fort.

A funny thing happened when I began typing furiously, determined to warn others about the fort of doom–it started to wobble wildly, tilting this way and that. I was too distracted to care, though–the good kind of distraction! Before I knew it…

on the floor...

The fort of doom was just another pile of books on the floor. Take what you will from my temporary insanity, but I’ve decided that sometimes you just have to put distraction in its place and see where your imagination can take you.

How do you thwart distraction?


Back to the Mailroom

By David Shankbone  (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By David Shankbone
(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


Confession: when I was in high school, I failed my drivers’ test six times.  There was the damned horse and buggy, plodding down the middle of the road that first time.  I sat there in the drivers’ seat, hands clenched to the wheel like bird claws.  There was a line of traffic all the way around the block, punching a Morse code of car-horn curses out into the air and the instructor, hidden behind enormous aviators, smiled and shook his head.  There was the time of the hypothetical pedestrian…the time of the wrong lanes…the time I ran over the curb or the time I was so nervous that I forgot to look in the mirrors for the whole trip.  I’ve been thinking a lot about those slow, defeated trips home from the drivers’ test.  Each time I knew that if I didn’t pass soon, I would have to start over again.

The other day, after a particularly frustrating experience of rejection, I started to think.  (Actually, if I’m being honest, I ate some cheesecake and watched some 30 Rock re-runs, because this is the all-time best remedy for disappointment. But saying “I started to think” just sounds way more avant-garde artiste…or something.)  And you know what?  It was totally productive, because I had an epiphany and it’s all because of Jack Donaghy and his awesomeness.  No, really, I mean it.  And not just because I have a crush on Alec Baldwin.  It just so happens that in this episode, Jack loses his position as CEO, but he climbs his way back to the top by getting a job in the mailroom.

Okay, bear with me.  This all makes sense, I swear.

For some reason, it got me thinking about my novel.  No, really, this time I actually was thinking and not ogling Alec Baldwin.  I’m rewriting this novel for the third time.  Why?  Because it just didn’t feel quite right the last time.  Maybe I’m a tad insane (aren’t we all?), but when I write another draft, I don’t like to cut and paste or edit what I already have.  I read each chapter and then type it out in a new document or write it again in a notebook without looking at it.  For some reason, the act of starting fresh makes all the important pieces stand out in my mind.  Aspects of the novel that I forget just fall away, because they weren’t really that important to the story anyway.

I guess you could say the blank page is my mailroom.  Sure, it’s not quite where I want to be.  Most of the time, it’s dark and filled with grumbling and a lot of papers everywhere.  But the thing is, I know that this is where I need to be.  After all, I did eventually pass my driving test.  (If this terrifies you more than comforts you, this is totally understandable). But it stands to reason that if someone who had to start over so many times can still succeed, we are all capable of our aspirations.  So make peace with the mailroom, because it’s only the first stop on the way to the top.

Have you ever gone back to the mailroom?