I noticed that when I sit down to write, my brain immediately freezes. I know I’m supposed to push through it, but I’m sitting at a device in which I can immediately pull up 4 billion interesting things that will take my mind off of writing and another hour or two away from my life.
It’s strange because I so used to love writing, but now when I start to write something, my mind drifts. It’s as though multitasking has killed my thought process. Or maybe it’s just adulthood and more responsibilities. I used to get obsessed, now I just get overwhelmed.
Of course, I’m sitting here with a cellphone on my leg, the laptop next to it, and a TV directly in front of me, as well as a book at my feet, so perhaps it is my own undoing.
The biggest thing I lack in my life is discipline. When I was in school, discipline was easy. Do the assignment by the time it is due for the grade. School was my life, and so were my grades. There were no families, work, bills, and sadly no girls to keep me preoccupied. Okay, there were girls that kept me preoccupied, but not because they ever talked to me. So my head was filled with a singular presence. Now when I sit down to do pretty much anything, my brain has a bit of ADHD. Writing something for “fun”, then I think I should be writing something to make money because I never have enough of it. Sitting to do something at work and not understanding a bit of it? Then my head becomes a bit of fog that can only be solved by reading a story on CNN, which then leads to a few other distractions.
Yesterday I tried my best to focus on one thing. Using One Note on my computer, I’ve started making a list of things I need to tackle. It’s helped me focus on what I need to be doing and I actually am seeing some disciplined practice. I worked on my distractions and spent most of the day tied to my desk getting some work done. I came home yesterday and cleaned the cat’s litter boxes, which is a relatively time consuming chore with three cats and three boxes. I stuck with it until it was done. I did all three. Minor triumphs, but I managed to put those multitasking demons out of my head for awhile while I just did that.
Even today, as I sat down to do an exercise out of How To Be A Writer, I turned off the TV, sat in a quiet room, and didn’t open any other windows on my computer to keep from being instantly distracted from a relatively easy exercise of freewriting.
The wired world has killed my brain. Focusing on one thing at a time is the only way I can shock it back to life, I think.
Switched gears to work on a young adult novel that’s been in my head based partially on my own experiences and partially on trying to emulate John Green. It’s amazing how when you get going and block out the distractions you can start creating again.
I’ve noticed that when I try to write, my head starts to feel literally blocked. It’s as though the brain activity in the top part of my brain is simply stuck in a stand still. I can’t focus because I think of all of the things I should be doing and I really feel like I don’t want to be doing this. It really saddens me because I used to get a great kick out of it, and now I feel afraid to touch pen to the page (or type on the keyboard). Have I become lazy, scared, or just adrift?
I’ve been trying to focus on the idea that I need to practice to get better and truly read and respond to the advice given in books and magazines about writing.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about writing and realizing I’m no longer as observant as I once was. Multitasking has meant that I pay attention to nothing much of anything. So I’ve been trying to focus on things.
It was interesting in a meeting yesterday to watch the interaction among the people in the room. The person obviously entrusted with the most things was very much a take charge, no-nonsense person with minimal people skills. “WHY IS MY NAME ON HERE” was the response to seeing her name under a task that wasn’t hers. While she had razor focus on the projects at hand, she seemed unaware of the room around her, whereas I was having the opposite problem. Another person whose role was to essentially be a quiet observer, seemed to be going out of his way to make himself known as being present. Some people never speak but just seem to be enjoying the time out of their day.
I’m in the process of reading Goals by Brian Tracy, hoping to get some advice to clear the clutter out of my mind, get some more discipline, and learn how to clarify and pursue my goals. The book starts off talking about, of course, how you are control of your own life and how you need to let go of your past and the things that hurt you.
It made me wonder how many successful writers truly let go of their own pasts. Certainly our own hurts, failings and botched desires make up a portion of some of our writing. We journal it, think about it, shape it into new ideas and more. Would this be a form of moving past it?
Anyway, so far it is a quick read, with lots of thoughtful points free of the ridiculous jargon, religious philosophies or “systems” that make other books like this a complete slog.
In two more days I turn 40. The big 4-0. My only thought is “what the frig”. Has it really been 18 years since I graduated college? 22 since I graduated high school? How is that even possible? How can I have a mortgage, a car, a job, a kid? Is this what I really wanted to do with my life? Wasn’t I going to be a famous writer?
A few weeks ago I got the old age wakeup call. After years of being relatively healthy, I got a nice little scare that led to a colonoscopy. I won’t say it was a life changing moment, but it certainly got me to thinking. What the hell was up with me? Why wasn’t I pursuing the stuff that interested me any more?
Like many people my age, I think Lennon’s adage “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” came to pass. A child, a 40 hour a week job, a wife, and the desire to decompress kind of took the desire out of me. I also look at the numerous distractions in my life. It’s nothing now for me to be tweeting on my phone while reading a news story on my computer and watching TV with a pause for a bit of conversation. All of the stuff that interested me and gave me pleasure has been replaced by clutter and confusion. It’s rare I pick up a book and read it non-stop. It’s rare I watch a movie or television show without being plugged into something else. Everything MUST be done and must be done now. And so I have magazines, books, DVR’d shows, blog posts, websites, web videos, DVDs, Facebook updates, and twitter updates to attend to. Who has time to do what you like when there is so much to keep up with? Hell, I haven’t even mentioned the news.
When I was younger, people looked at this gifted and talented (their words) kid and said I could be or do anything if I just applied myself. Now I appear to be applying myself to anything without any real results. Everything seems important, and when everything seems important, nothing winds up being that way to you.
So now I’m looking into that writing dream, trying to figure out how I can get back into something that once came so easy for me. Right now I’m staring at several magazines and books that I want to read involving ideas or writing. I’m jotting down some goals I’d like to meet, which isn’t easy for me because I’ve never been a goal person. In high school and college, the writing seemed to come easy because there was a purpose. Now, absent a grade or money, the writing seems labored. Why spend hours on something if you’re never going to get a grade or see money from it immediately? What if you suck? What if you hate doing it? So it’s easier to pretend you’re a writer than to be one.
I almost typed nothing tonight. I looked at a blank screen and three ideas I started, one that is promising but stuck, another that I have a wonderful page written and no idea where to go next, and a third that’s very personal, and somehow seems like nothing but suck.
I guess what I’m saying is that as I approach 40, I want to try again. I want to write just to write. I want to feel the joy that comes from creating something that people like.
I just have to quit turning it into a mountain before I even commit one word to paper. And I need to get rid of the clutter that fills my head and my life. And I need to stop worrying about being good. I just need to do it. Right Nike?
But I think I’ll keep on tweeting. The followers are good for the ego.
Having to go into work early yesterday and having a splitting headache today didn’t do much for my writing. Oh well, I’m going to push forward.