Interruptions and distractions


My go to excuses for stalled creativity, whether writer’s block, artist’s block or a wholesale drain of ideas, are “interruption” and “distraction.” Interruptions I can blame on someone else—kids, pets, spouse, FedEx delivery, door-to-door evangelists, etc. Distractions are wholly my responsibility. Email. Facebook. Laundry. Checking the Mariner’s score. Maybe a quick snack.  Oh look, the mailman’s here! Let me check what we have to make for dinner. Hmmm, better run to the store.

Interruptions are curse-able. If by some chance I am on a roll, either drawing or writing, I am at the mercy of interruption. And once interrupted, it is often difficult to get back in the flow. Unfortunately, most interruptions cannot be avoided. We have responsibilities, obligations, a sense of decency or common courtesy. Besides who doesn’t love an engaging discussion with enthusiastic strangers at your door trying to hawk their particular understanding of the world, and why you are destined for hell. I think that is one of the perks of working from home. The most I can hope for with interruptions is an ability to anticipate them.

And as where interruptions are curse-able in their unpredictability, distractions may deserve self-flagellation. Because distractions are elective. I am aware how easily distracted I can be. At times I seem unable to do anything about it. I’m weak. Most (some) of my distractions are valid tasks I need to take care of; it is the timing of them that is mismanaged. I probably shouldn’t be watching the hummingbirds, or scanning facebook, or wandering outside the back door trying to figure out where those ants are coming from when I have work to do.

Out of necessity (becoming a caregiver) I moved my studio home two years ago after having one away from home for decades. I knew I was going to have new challenges. It brought a whole new level of interruptions and many new things to get distracted by. I was determined to make the studio as functional at home as it was downtown. I purposely did things to make it a place of complete immersion in my writing and illustration. Like not putting a TV in it. (That became a moot point with,, etc. available on line.) The interruptions were as expected and continued to increase in frequency. That is something I’d just have to learn to work around. Distractions, however would take more concentration, more will power on my part. When it is time to be be drawing or writing, my mind should be on bunnies, pigs, and monsters. I should be able to resist the urge to get up and tend to tasks that can obviously wait. I should be able to resist checking facebook “really quick.” I should use facebook as a reward for finishing a determined amount of work, or after working a certain amount of time. It can’t be that hard, right? I mean all I need to do is focus. And be strong. As I write this, I hear kids playing out in the cul-de-sac and it is everything I can do not to get up and see what is going on.

Apparently a girl of about 7 was trying to teach a couple other girls of about 4 or 5 how to throw a Frisbee. It was very cute. See? I couldn’t even finish this post without walking away distracted at least once. (It was actually more than once.) Sigh.

I don’t have any solutions or sage advice for lessening the impact of interruptions and distractions when you’re on a creative jag. However, an approaching deadline can be incredibly helpful in eliminating distractions. As for interruptions, they—hang on, I have to go fix lunch for my wife.



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12 responses to “Interruptions and distractions

  1. Kevan, July must be the month of distractions! Heather Fenton posted about this very thing on Look for “Are Distractions Derailing Your Writ–Wait, Did I Pick Up Milk at the Store?”

    Of course, reading entertaining blog posts that reveal the deeper truths of the writing and illustrating life is always a legitimate distraction, right? Thanks for another quasi-guilt-free (okay, low-ish guilt) distractible moment.


  2. Boy, do I hear you. My deadline is 4 DAYS AWAY! So, what did I do yesterday? I completely disassembled the dishwasher and cleaned every tiny crevice and crack with a toothbrush and even a toothpick! We have noticed for years that our dishes are not as clean as they used to be, but I couldn’t wait four more days to undertake this task. At least now I’ll have clean dishes to use while I procrastinate… er, I mean, go eat my lunch. Hey, we gotta eat, right? 😉


  3. kevanjatt

    Yes we do, Laurie. I wouldn’t mind the distractions as much if most of them weren’t about food.


  4. “who doesn’t love an engaging discussion with enthusiastic strangers at your door trying to hawk their particular understanding of the world, and why you are destined for hell”

    “my mind should be on bunnies, pigs, and monsters”

    Kevan, I’m not sure which of these two lines are my favorite in the post. They are competing hard. 🙂

    Great entry, and I really like the distinction you make between interruptions and distractions. I’m going to try to keep that in mind and remember that I have some power over the distractions, at least!


  5. I spend a lot of time getting frustrated with myself, wondering why I am SO distractible, and assuming all of my writer/illustrator pals just sit down every day and work in a very focused way. It may not have been your intention, but you’ve made me feel better!


  6. If I’m overwhelmed by an impending deadline (um, like now), I become even more distractable (distractible?). Even washing dishes becomes very alluring. So I hear you. I kept wishing the Anne Lamott “bird by bird” mantra as I focus on smaller, measurable goals rather than stressing over how much of the manuscript I haven’t yet written.


  7. kevanjatt

    Ha! I use the ‘bird by bird’ mantra, too. But sometimes I use it as an excuse.


  8. You’ve made me feel better, for sure! I shared this with one of my FB writing groups and one of them responded with:
    “That’s me! Wonder how he knew? *wink* *wink* No really. How’z come he knows?”
    I guess we’re all pretty much the same!
    BTW, I’m convinced that there is no really quick way to check FB!


  9. Pingback: 7 Tips to Avoid Writing Distractions | Faith Simone

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