Friday, July 25, 2014


Distracted? Who me? Photo of our dog, Dustin, by N. Halin,
used with permission

Once upon a time, I had the ability to focus and concentrate.

Really. I did.

Stop laughing! That's not nice!

Well, at least I seemed to be able to focus on my writing and get words down on the page in 20-30 minute writing sprints. These days, I'm about as flighty and distractable as a golden retriever puppy on speed. 

Partly, I blame the stress of last year, which left me unsettled and unmoored. Partly is likely the dubious joys of peri-menopause. Partly to blame is the siren call of always-on internet devices and the irresistible ping of notifications.

I know it's not possible to be creative and productive while multitasking. Hell, I know that neurologically, multitasking is, in itself, impossible. We just single-task serially, some of us more seamlessly than others, giving the illusion of multitasking. But the truth is, each interruption costs something in terms of performance.

I know this, and still, I let myself get seduced by checking email, Google Plus notifications, my Amazon sales page, all the while deluding myself that I'm actually writing.

So I decided that the first step was admitting I had a problem and needed help.

Then I found "Freedom". It's a program originally created for the Mac, now ported to Windows, etc, that lets you set internet free stretches of time. I used to think I had the self-discipline and scoffed at such controlling external measures.

I'm not scoffing anymore.

I shelled out the 10 or so bucks for the program and have been using it to return to 30 minutes of focused writing sprints, scattered through my day. It's frustrating to sit with a difficult scene and a blinking cursor, and my prior strategy would be to check email, or surf over to G+ rather than be with the discomfort. And I KNOW that clicking into another window just drained away all my creative energy. Yet, I did it anyway. Repeatedly. For much of the past year. Honestly, it's a wonder I got anything completed at all.

So now you know my dirty secret.

I am slowly rebuilding my 'concentration muscles.' And you know what? It feels good to work my brain in this way. I've missed it a lot.

And I think I'll let the dogs worry about chasing the squirrels.


  1. I'm a dinosaur Lisa, I don't do social media. I'm not on facebook, twitter, google whatever - nothing. I've never been and I don't want to be. I love my iPad & the quick access to the internet world, I enjoy reading & posting comments on my fav blogs, ebay shopping, etc. I adore the e-book stores and the instant delivery. I love my scrabble & jigsaw puzzle games. I think email is a gift from the gods and my favourite thing is my library of books. For such a bookworm I haven't even bothered finding out what to do on Goodreads as it just seems so much like hard work - I've been reading the same book for over a year! I just don't want to spend my every waking hour tied to an electronic device and at the end of the day I'd much rather be reading or sewing.

    1. Fran - part of me wishes I could be a 'dinosaur', but I think that ship has long sailed. I struggle with my need for solitude and my need to be connected. I definitely see that it's taken a toll on my ability to sit and focus on a single task for an extended period of time. It's something I'm working on. Yoga helps. Being in the ceramics studio helps. So does reading. I know a lot of writers have a computer or tablet that they disable internet access on, and that's what I'm trying to do with using 'freedom.'

  2. I hear ya, Lisa. It helps to realize that a computer is a time-sucker, for sure. Part of the problem that TV never gives us, is it demands your full attention. I can knit when the TV is on, heck, I have to have the TV on to knit anything...I can read, I can do housework and just show up when the sound track peaks...but a computer denies you all of that.

    Interactive really means interactive.

    When we lose the electricity here I suddenly realize I have all this energy that has to go somewhere, and it surely does, even if its just to cleaning out the closet or finally putting away the clean clothes in the drawers...and youre right, perimenopause doesnt help at all. It cut my writing down to zero for almost a year, to the point where there were no words out there, not even shopping lists.

    I also think having a dedicated (no access) computer could cut down the temptation to wander over to FB and see how things are going, jussst for a minute...or check the weather... or look up a word that is also in a huge book sitting on the shelf over there.. =)

  3. This sounds very wise. Bad weather here (which means lots of lightning) has been knocking me off the computer so often I'm barely able to log on for more than thirty minutes at a time. Which has been frustrating but also weirdly helpful. Over the last couple of days I've been taking the laptop (on battery, and not connected to the internet) into the spare bedroom and working there on my chapters, and I'm turning out a lot of pages that way.

    1. As an ardent fan, I'm really glad you found a way to write more.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this...I'm not alone! Back during the perimenopause thing, I took Niacin (not niacinamide). The flushes were well worth the ability to focus. But, recently, I found that the Internet is the siren's call when I'm the least bit bored or frustrated with what I'm doing. Guess it's time to shut the computer down sometimes. Never would have spotted this problem if I hadn't read your post.

    1. It also doesn't help that we are living in a society that makes us all like my Jack Russell Terrier, searching for the new and the shiny. :) When I'm actively in the ceramics studio, I find that I'm also better able to shut out the distractions and be in the moment.