Lent and the Distracted Writer

Yes, folks.  Mardi Gras is over.  Ash Wednesday is here, and the forty days of penance.  As in, fish on Fridays.  Giving up sweets.  Or soda.  Or alcohol.

Being Catholic, I’m asked to give something up for Lent every year.  One year, I gave up gossip.  Another year, I gave up saying bad things about people.  This year, I’m wondering if I should try to give up what I personally believe is one of the biggies.  It’s a real monkey on my back.

Being distracted.

I am a champion at being distracted.  I don’t like to turn off my wireless, partly because I’ve always allowed myself to believe that it can be hard to turn back on.  I love to look things up, to research, to collects tidbits of information.  I’ve studied cosmetics, perfumes and knitting with the intensity of a day trader.  Also, what if something really important comes through on my email?  What if I miss it?   I have things to do, and often allow myself to think that those are super important.  More important, even, than the work I sat down to do.  Writing.

So, how do I not be distracted?  How do I not look around the room and see the things that need to be picked up.  Turn down the brain-chatter in my head that nags me to get that load of laundry on, check on that bill, hang that coat up, try out that miraculous anti-aging serum?

Because if I can just get those things done, I will be productive!  Right?

Wrong.  If I get those things done, I have done those things.  And I will have allowed myself not to write, yet again.

Again, how do I turn down the distracted side of my head?

In Pressfield’s The War of Art, he calls this PROCRASTINATION. Procrastination, he says, is everything that keeps us from our work.  The Bible addresses it in Corinthians: “whatever you do, do it with your whole heart,” and encourages us to keep in mind that we are working for a higher power.  FlyLady.net starts every year with a new reminder.  This year’s is “Perfectionism is shelved in 2012.”  You can do anything for fifteen minutes!  And it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just do it.

So.  It is possible.  I have Pressfield, God, and Marla Cilley at my back to keep me on the straight and narrow.  With that in mind, I will do the right thing.  I will turn off the wireless.  I will resolve to do my job with my whole heart.  I will set the timer for fifteen minutes, rest, and repeat, and forgive myself up front for not being perfect.  This is my Lenten resolution.

Do you get distracted?

Checks out this link for more, uhm, encouragement.  Honest, he says it so much better than I ever will:  http://electricliterature.com/blog/2011/07/25/dont-read-this

About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).

18 thoughts on “Lent and the Distracted Writer

  1. Great post, Susan-Mermaid! Last year for Lent I gave up Cheese Nips. That was rough. This year I’m giving up criticizing myself. We’ll see how that one goes….

    1. KerriMermaid, that’s great! If you ease up on criticizing yourself, you’ll have more positive vibes going and feel better about the work you do, and get more done. It’s very Pressfield and right up there with FlyLady. (thanks for the Cheese Nips mention, I laughed out loud – in spite of your pain)

      1. Giving up Cheese Nips was awful! But… I had been eating like a box a day so I needed to take some drastic measures. I would say something super mean about myself shoving Cheese Nips in my mouth right now but alas, I can’t. See above. 😉

  2. Hi Susan, good morning! I wish you a very clear and determined path to giving up distractions.

  3. Susan,
    The distractions put me right over the top. I can’t get a darn thing done with writing because I keep checking multiple inboxes. Then I check everyone’s blogs. Then I comment on those blogs. Then I find a million piddly things to do. And then, when I finally make myself sit down at the computer, my kids are getting off the bus. LOL.
    So, I have been limiting myself. My dishes didn’t get done yesterday, but I wrote 2,400 words. Not saying that the dishes were that much, but you get the idea. My house will be a wreck once the kids come home from school anyway, so why bother cleaning it while they’re gone? 🙂
    My friend has something on her Mac that takes her choices away. She can’t get on the internet for a certain amount of time. I was thinking of doing that too because clearly I have NO willpower. None. Zip.
    I have set a goal for myself to reach a word count by the end of the week, so I’ll let you know if I reach it. If I can allow myself not to get distracted, I will.
    Off to find another to blog where I can comment. LOL.

    1. Kimberly, you are incredibly brave to set a word count. The Mac has an app called ‘Freedom,’ that shuts off the distractions. Entirely. The only way to get around it (max three hours) is to reboot. Ack.

      Maybe that means I should be buying it?

  4. Susan,
    Do I get distracted??? What? You are kidding right? I’m perfect . . . on the ball and . . . oh look, a chicken! LOL!

    I am the mother of two ADD teenagers . . . I start laundry and end up cleaning the laundry room (two days later, I get back to laundry). My office is in a constant state of half filed piles of paper and my hard drive is full of stories started and put to the side to finish at a later date. Now, ask me if I’m organized! I can tell you where every piece of paper in those piles are . . . and exact location of where the tape measure or hammer is. 😀

    Hugs and fishy kisses!

    P.S. I’m giving up on ‘giving up’ for Lent. I’m just ‘doing’ and seeing where it takes me.

    1. Loni, that is so wonderful, I wish I’d thought of it! ‘Doing’ instead of ‘giving up.’ And yes, I can tell you where everything is. It’s right here, underneath this and this and this! Just let me step around that pile over there and dig underneath…

      You get the picture, right?

  5. Oh and one more thing . . . I have been trying to focus on writing and not so much internet. Twitter/Facebook and blogs can distract me way too much! So if you haven’t seen me on a regular basis–I am trying to limit internet to only a few days a week.

    Mermaid Loni

  6. Hold on, I want to comment but my Words With Friends reminder just went off. 🙂

    Joking aside, this is a great post and an excellent reminder that we are in control of cutting out things from our lives that we don’t need.

    I’m not Catholic, but the rest of the Flynns are, so we’ve given up dessert as a family for Lent. Fingers crossed it goes well because my house is filled with Girl Scout cookies.

    1. Avery, I am not required to observe Lent, being exempt through the miracle of modern medicine and incurable conditions. Heh, heh, heh. As such, I’ll be happy to take those Girl Scout cookies off your hands any time!

      But yes, food is also a distraction!

  7. My husband and I are “doing” instead of “giving up” for Lent, and we have decided to work out everyday! Should be fun.
    I’ve been pretty good lately with Internet distractions, but it’s the “life” distractions that get in the way.
    Good luck on your goals, Susan!

    1. Thank you! I’m pleased that I’ve turned the Internet off (and on again) more than once today, and actually did some writing!

      With practice, this could become a very healthy habit.

  8. Hi, Susan! Hi Avery! Blowing kisses to you both. I’m a big fan of FlyLady too — that 15 minute mantra is so freeing, isn’t it? I really do set a timer if I have a particularly odious task to finish, and most things can be accomplished in that time, or broken down into smaller parts that fit within the 15 minutes. I also get very sidetracked by the internet, but I have a method of getting medieval on myself when it’s time to sit down and write. I have a nice, zippy laptop with all the bells and whistles, but if I’m not behaving, I don’t allow myself to use it! Instead, I use my ancient, beat-up, industrial gray Dell laptop. It works just fine if I’m writing, but it can only connect to the wireless by means of an external antenna, which I just don’t plug into the USB port. Even if I did install it, web pages are so slow to load it makes me crazy. Zero temptation that way! Good luck on your Lenten mission.

    1. Hi Susannah! Welcome to the lagoon and thanks for visiting! That’s a terrific idea – it makes me wish I had a beat-up laptop, too! Today, though, I worked with an eye on the clock and the wireless turned off. I was able to make some progress on my current scene, and I was totally thrilled when the real estate agent turned out to be a bitch and the heroine was so mad about it that she knocked over her favorite mug and broke it. I’m tickled – I just *knew* that mug had to go! It was a gun on the wall. Now it’s dead. 🙂

      Also, just got off a Savvy Author chat with Cathy Yardley. She was saying she has written 10 books in 10 – 20 minute chunks (boy, I hope I’m remembering this correctly) of writing time. If she can do it, why not us?

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