Ants and Other Distractions

I sit down to write at my trusty laptop. It’s dark. It’s always dark (to me) in my living room thanks to the tacky 50’s era metal awning which covers over half the window. My solution during the daytime anyway is to open the front door and let the light pour in through the screen door. Light is a good thing until you see a battalion of mini-ants trailing from the corner of the door all the way to your daughter’s chair where she sometimes sits and eats snacks when watching TV.

Let me make something clear: this is not okay with me. I attack with Lysol kitchen spray and the ants die on contact. I toss the chair into the front lawn and grab an old cleaning rag to begin wiping up the hundred dead bodies of ants gone too soon. (This isn’t entirely true. When I say I “tossed” the chair onto the “lawn” what I really did was set the chair on the porch, but that’s how writing is. “Tossing” something into the yard sounds much more actionable than “setting” the chair down gingerly on the porch. But I’m getting distracted here…)

After wiping up the carnage I stay down there, on my hands and knees, hunting for more ants. The ones that dare to show themselves are quickly squashed under my finger and dropped back down to the floor lifeless. Ant snipering takes quite a bit of time. Once I’m convinced there are no more ants left in this world I rise, sweep up the twisted dead, and throw them in the garbage.

I sit down to write at my trusty laptop. By now an hour has passed and I don’t have any time to write left. The ants, in their own way, still defeated me. They still invaded and stole my time. This is not just how this week has been, but it’s the symptom of an all too common problem with writers: allowing yourself to be distracted. To get really effective writing sessions you have to ignore the ants.

With each writing session you have to train your mind to let the phone ring, let tidal waves crash against the windows, let that episode of NCIS go unwatched because you have more important things to do. When you do get really good at avoiding distractions, be careful because something or someone will come along that you don’t even recognize for the distraction it is. If you aren’t careful, the next thing you know you’ll be ankle deep in sewer backup.

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