August 14, 2018
Overcome Distractions and Write
By Rochelle Melander
May Sarton published Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, a novel about a poet and writer in the early 60s, long before cell phones and the Internet. Here’s what she said about the main character’s struggle to write:
Every single day she fought a war to get to her desk before her little bundle of energy had been dissipated, to push aside or cull through an intricate web of slight threads pulling her in a thousand different directions… —May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing
As a poet and novelist herself, Sarton knew that writers and artists had to overcome distractions and write before the threads of life pulled them toward both crucial and mundane tasks of the day.
The war to get to our desks—and stay there—involves many small battles. We struggle to turn off social media. We scuffle with our own egos: Does this work matter? Will anyone read this? We battle our sense of duty: I need to be earning more money. I have emails to answer! We confront the millions of ideas that float around in our heads, our long to-do lists, and our anxiety about getting our work finished. How are we to accomplish anything?
Distractions happen. If you have a project you want to complete, it is important to learn how to overcome distractions, focus, and write. Try these three tools:
Take a walk.
Walking boosts our creativity, especially our ability to generate unique ideas. Walking in nature also improves our ability to concentrate and can even restore our ability to pay attention. Before you transition from your day to your writing desk, take a quick walk to the park or around the block. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to write!
Set a timer.
Next time you get to your desk feeling no energy for writing—do it anyway. Set a timer for ten minutes and write. Like inspiration, our energy for writing often appears after we begin and not before. After the timer goes off, try writing for another ten minutes. Repeat until you’ve done what you set out to do.
Talking, tweeting, and Facebooking about writing—and especially about our work in progress—spends our storytelling energy. Use your social time to share about other stuff—and save that creative buzz around your story for your writing time.
A final word.
In case you forget this on the way to your desk today, your work matters. You matter. Write.