|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.