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 Hulu.com, Netflix.com, 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.