I read once

that good writing is the product of 2% effort and 98% not getting distracted by the Internet. In part, I think this is true. Social media, favorite websites, and a ticker tape news-feed provide enough noise on the channel to drown out creative reception. But there’s more to distraction than just the Internet, and I think there’s a whole internal world’s worth of it that warrants exploration and governance.

“writer’s block”, “painter’s block”, or “I’m just not feeling creative” come to clash with the very real advice that

Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. – Chuck Close

Why we don’t (show up)

There’s probably some sociologist out there who can classify distractions into a zillion categories. For me, there’s really two types of underlying distractions that form why I don’t write a story, blog post, or slam poem: internal, and external. External distractions are things like phone calls, social obligations I forgot were on the calendar, and having to go to the bathroom. Not complicated.

Photo: Hartwig HKD – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Internal World

However, I would define an internal distraction as any question or desire that breaks my focus. As a blogger I’m constantly asking questions like “what do my readers like/want/need to read?”, “is this story and good?”, or “am I adhering to such and such advice?”. It’s easy to cave beneath an avalanche of such questions where desires such as man, I really just want to hit up Facebook can creep in steal away the moment. Even as I’m writing this, a part of me just wants to shut it down and play some Destiny 2 for a bit (that’s a computer game).

And we aren’t even talking about insecurities yet: “What if a potential agent decides to pass me up because what I thought was a good ending was awful?”, “What if I write myself into corner and can’t figure out how to get my protag out of that predicament?”, “Is anyone actually reading this??” Ugh..questions can be brutal to our creativity. I think 10 times out of 10, if I either walk away from a story (either blank page or in progress) it’s because I thought about a question I was afraid to answer and a more easily gratified desire capitalized on the moment. Don’t believe me? How many times have you done dishes, laundry, cleaned something, made coffee, created a shopping list, or even reconciled your finances right when you were about to do something creative? When we’d rather face a pile of laundry more than our own creativity, we need to admit that we are not okay.

Photo: Scott Meis – (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Three Keys to Staying Focused

So how do we kill the villain? In typical blogger fashion, I’ve got it boiled down to three bullet points:

  1. Mufasa: Remember who you are. Pray, ask God for help in this. Think about the calling on your life, and the value of your voice.
  2. Sit Down: Writers call this BIC (butt in chair). Put yourself in a context to actually do work. This means schedule.
  3. Shut Up: If you’re anything like me, you need to be a better gatekeeper of your own questions. If it’s inviting you away, it needs to kindly shut the heck up.

Cool. No go do stuff!

2 thoughts

  1. ” When we’d rather face a pile of laundry more than our own creativity, we need to admit that we are not okay.”
    I love this!! I mean, I DON’T love it, but I definitely felt the force of this statement in a deep and personal way.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It’s amazing to me how willing we are to run from ourselves and our calling. It’s a continual battle against fear. Ugh…some days I definitely fight better than others!

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