Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dealing with Distractions

Are you one of those people who can set a goal, lay out the plans, and then forge ahead, keeping on until you finish? Or are your projects something you start with joy and then, due to one thing or another, keep putting aside and never completing? If the latter is true, distractions may be getting the better of you.

I think the fact that my last post was in early June shows where I am: definitely in the distractible camp. To determine where you stand, I’ve made up the following little test.

You May Be Distractible If:

  • You’re in the middle of preparing a fancy dinner. The phone rings, you run to answer it, and forget all about dinner until you smell something burning…
  • You’re on hold with Customer Service when your child runs in carrying a skunk. You shriek, drop the phone, and try to get both child and skunk outdoors without alarming the skunk (unless it’s already too late for that). The first time you remember you were finally about to speak with a live human being on the phone is when you finally make it back to find the phone on the floor making strange noises indicating you should hang up.
  • You’re in the middle of writing a really great story, when suddenly another story idea pops into your head. You abandon the story you’re writing and start working on the second idea. When (or if) you get back to the first story, you no longer remember where you were going with it, and you’ve lost all your momentum. To quote the old song, “the thrill is gone.”

If you’re a writer, you can probably identify with the last, at least. What can you do about the allure of a new idea? Just give in? Keep on without paying it any mind and risk losing it to that vast wasteland of escaped ideas?

  • If the idea is quick and ephemeral, write it down before it escapes and then get back to work on your work in progress.
  • If the idea comes almost completely fleshed out with characters, plotlines, and a sense of urgency, mark your place in the work in progress and make a general outline of where it was headed. Then stop and work on the new idea. (By making notes for the current work, you’ll be able to come back to it later without forgetting where you intended to go next.)

There have been times I’ve had to abandon one story for another and neglected to make notes of where I intended to go next. Some I’ve been able to complete, but some are still languishing in the “I’ll finish it later” pile.

Most important suggestion: pray about it. Ask the Lord whether the new idea is a gift from Him, or a distraction to keep you from finishing what He has you writing now. Let His Spirit speak to yours. Then you’ll know what to do!


Anonymous said...

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Hope Chastain said...

Well, I don't see what that has to do with distractions, but thanks for noting that.