Distractions

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Since my little crash a little over a week ago, things have changed around my house. The first few days were spent trying to calm down my anxieties at the idea of losing all of my files. Then I went into panic mode of realizing just how many files I’d lose if my data is not recoverable (I still have no word on yay or nay as of the writing of this post). In between panics and anxieties, I managed to calm myself down with the reminder that everything is as it should be, and regardless of what happens, I will not die, nor will the core of my being be changed for evermore. Unless…

Unless of course I’m practicing what I “preach” in my question to clients across the nation: What’s the learning here? There is learning no matter where I go. In everything I do, in everything I say. Rather than focus on the situation I’m in, how can I put my attention more on the learning as a result of this situation? So this is where I sit right now.

What’s the learning here? But before I can know what there is to learn, I have to create awareness. First comes awareness, then comes mindfulness (I believe this is the learning stage), and then comes the action (applying what I’ve learned). When I go into action before I go through the other steps, I miss the learning and end up prolonging the growth. I know this of myself. I know that I have a tendency to step right into action, full-bore, with every intent to make up for any action I’ve not yet taken—act now, apologize (to myself) later. But this will simply not do anymore…

Awareness. I spend a lot of time on my laptop. A lot. From 8 in the morning until (at least) 6 in the evening. Which may seem right; I’m a writer. Which would seem right, if what I was doing was spending most of that time on the laptop writing. I realize upon reflection, that I spend a great deal of time checking, rather than writing. Checking my email. Checking Twitter. Checking Facebook. Checking comments here. Checking Google Reader. Checking my Brazen Careerist networks and posts. It’s not that these things are wholly bad. But my system of checking it all is.

I go to write and I need to look up a word, so I open a new tab or window. My home page pops up, and I see Google Reader. I see that so-and-so has just posted a blog, and I open it up. I read and it’s an amazing blog, just as I suspected. So I comment. In the comments I see a commenter who’s made an interesting point. So I click her link, which takes me to that blog. I skim. It’s worth subscribing to, so I do. And then I notice the “Follow me on Twitter” link. Which I click, and then I follow. And that reminds me to check my Twitter. Which shows me an interesting tweet. I engage. Then I check my Wonderful Women list, which always has a great new blog post to link to, whether it’s theirs or someone’s they’re sharing. And before I realize it, it’s an hour and twenty minutes later, and I still need to find the right word to use, which was the whole reason for looking anything up to begin with.

Without judgement, this is the awareness I’ve created since I have no laptop by which to be distracted.

Mindfulness. Do any of these distractions help me? They do when they’re not distractions. I wonder what I did before my laptop. Before I was this active on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, in general. Before all of that, I focused. I could be inclined to throw the baby out with the bath water here since all of these things seem to be distracting me from what’s really important to me. But these things that distract me, I really enjoy them. So I realize I need to make time for them.

I love the connections I’ve made in the last few months to some truly amazing people. I love that I learn from these people and connections. I love being a part of a community that gives and receives and supports and feels and shares. I love that I’m just a click away from reading an article that stirs my mind in the most thoughtful or jarring or sweet or heartfelt way. I love that I’m not limited to communication with just the people in my own town or the people I’ve personally come into contact with. I love that I can maintain connections and relationships, both business and personal, via this tiny white machinery that sits in my lap, and the technology designed for it. I am most certainly not willing to give all of that up.

I am also unwilling to give up myself. My self—at least part of her—is a writer, and her heart, her soul, her spirit is fed by words on a page, transferred from thought to existence. My writing shows me that my life is all for something, and that something is sharing. It is not all good, it is not all bad, and still it is all real. It’s all what I went through, it’s all what you go through. We do not have the same experiences, but we do have the same emotions. You express them your way, and I express them mine. By you sharing yours, I can relate to you. And by me sharing mine, you can relate to me. I believe it makes us feel more together, more substantial, more grounded, more understood, more gratified, more resilient…more human.

So, now with this learning, this mindful awareness of what’s really happening in my life, what action will get me from where I am to where I want to be? What action lies in the gap of here and there?

Action. I want to keep the connections, and I want to continue the writing. I realize that before the laptop I did a crazy thing. I used a pen. I used a spiral notebook. I held the pen to the paper in the notebook and I stroked up and down, side to side…can you believe I made words appear on a page without the use of a keyboard or a printer? I could hardly believe it myself. I’ve resorted to this archaic way of expressing myself, and I can’t believe the outcome.

I putting pen to paper and scribbling it all out, I have time to think. Time to think gives me time to feel. Time to feel creates connection. And that connection, that raw emotion that comes from the time and the thinking and the feeling and the connecting…that’s when the writing is good. That’s when the writing is what people can relate to and feel some sort of connectedness to being human. I know this in my head and I’ve known it all along. Now I feel it, now I put it into action.

It takes more time, it’s true. But I’d rather have more quality than more quantity. The clichés are running amok in my head right now. But I stick with one that sticks with me: Actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to putting them thoughtfully, rawly on the page versus using keyboard-tapping-vomit to get it all out. And so, this is where I am today. Spending more time writing by hand, and less time clicking away at the computer. Sure, I don’t have a computer to click away at, so I borrow this one to write this note to you now, but I feel like I’m building a muscle. I’m getting stronger. So when I do get my laptop back, I have strength to hold to the boundaries I am now defining, which will allow me to enjoy my distractions and not be bogged down by them.

But enough about me…how do you create and apply your learning?

Pen and Paper photo used under Creative Commons License via: http://www.flickr.com/photos/qisur/ / CC BY 2.0
  • My day is full of distractions. I head to the kitchen to wash the dishes and see a piece of trash. I pick it up and throw it in the bathroom trash can. I see the washer and dryer (I live in an apartment) and remember that I have 20 billion loads to wash. I run into my room to start the wash and notice a hair clip. I stop, rearrange my hair, and remember that I don't have make-up on. In between each of these distractions, one of my babies will begin to fuss, I will change a few diapers, and manage to dress my babies. Before long, an hour has passed and the dishes remain dirty, the laundry has yet to be started, and my house is a mess. What happened to organization?

    How do I create and apply my learning? I sit and breathe. It's true. When I receive some kind of inspiration, I sit, think, and breathe. If I am smart, I write it down. Later that evening, I will look at what I have written and ponder the new direction I should take my life. It is startling–and refreshing–how much inspiration is derived through my daily distractions.

  • Dian, you were so right about me being able to relate to you on this – SO right!!

    I'm just starting to boundary myself with regards to writing – for me that means using the morning for writing and then doing “water cooler” stuff AFTER that. And let me tell you how well it's working…um…ok, not so much yet. But it's a new process — and I can see that it'll take awhile for me to get used to-but it's going to work.

    The connections, either thru Twitter,FB or emails (or skype) are not exactly distractions…not in the way that Freecell is (grin) – but yet, yeah, they are when they keep me (like you mentioned) from finding the right word or finishing a post or chapter. And that happens a lot.
    I keep having to remind myself (in this new process) that were I at work “outside” I wouldn't be able to hang at the water cooler all day no matter how much brainstorming, networking, or inspiration I got out of it – I'd be there to accomplish something and I'd need to get to THAT first and could mix the water cooler stuff throughout the day (like lunch and break times at an “outside” job) but not let it eclipse the day…(if that makes sense)…

    And Dian, I “get” it about the writing by hand. The other day I got bored and nonproductive (and bitchy) at home, took my laptop to the library (and a notebook and pen as well) — started working on the computer, but stopped and wrote by hand and ohmyword – I'd forgotten – it's a good thing to shake things up sometimes — and I found that the editing was easier and quicker once I'd hand written…

    love your thoughts here!!

    Dian, is it possible that my comment is longer than your post that I'm commenting on??? lol…jeez

  • Dian, you were so right about me being able to relate to you on this – SO right!!

    I'm just starting to boundary myself with regards to writing – for me that means using the morning for writing and then doing “water cooler” stuff AFTER that. And let me tell you how well it's working…um…ok, not so much yet. But it's a new process — and I can see that it'll take awhile for me to get used to-but it's going to work.

    The connections, either thru Twitter,FB or emails (or skype) are not exactly distractions…not in the way that Freecell is (grin) – but yet, yeah, they are when they keep me (like you mentioned) from finding the right word or finishing a post or chapter. And that happens a lot.
    I keep having to remind myself (in this new process) that were I at work “outside” I wouldn't be able to hang at the water cooler all day no matter how much brainstorming, networking, or inspiration I got out of it – I'd be there to accomplish something and I'd need to get to THAT first and could mix the water cooler stuff throughout the day (like lunch and break times at an “outside” job) but not let it eclipse the day…(if that makes sense)…

    And Dian, I “get” it about the writing by hand. The other day I got bored and nonproductive (and bitchy) at home, took my laptop to the library (and a notebook and pen as well) — started working on the computer, but stopped and wrote by hand and ohmyword – I'd forgotten – it's a good thing to shake things up sometimes — and I found that the editing was easier and quicker once I'd hand written…

    love your thoughts here!!

    Dian, is it possible that my comment is longer than your post that I'm commenting on??? lol…jeez

  • Dian, you were so right about me being able to relate to you on this – SO right!!

    I'm just starting to boundary myself with regards to writing – for me that means using the morning for writing and then doing “water cooler” stuff AFTER that. And let me tell you how well it's working…um…ok, not so much yet. But it's a new process — and I can see that it'll take awhile for me to get used to-but it's going to work.

    The connections, either thru Twitter,FB or emails (or skype) are not exactly distractions…not in the way that Freecell is (grin) – but yet, yeah, they are when they keep me (like you mentioned) from finding the right word or finishing a post or chapter. And that happens a lot.
    I keep having to remind myself (in this new process) that were I at work “outside” I wouldn't be able to hang at the water cooler all day no matter how much brainstorming, networking, or inspiration I got out of it – I'd be there to accomplish something and I'd need to get to THAT first and could mix the water cooler stuff throughout the day (like lunch and break times at an “outside” job) but not let it eclipse the day…(if that makes sense)…

    And Dian, I “get” it about the writing by hand. The other day I got bored and nonproductive (and bitchy) at home, took my laptop to the library (and a notebook and pen as well) — started working on the computer, but stopped and wrote by hand and ohmyword – I'd forgotten – it's a good thing to shake things up sometimes — and I found that the editing was easier and quicker once I'd hand written…

    love your thoughts here!!

    Dian, is it possible that my comment is longer than your post that I'm commenting on??? lol…jeez

  • Dian, you were so right about me being able to relate to you on this – SO right!!

    I'm just starting to boundary myself with regards to writing – for me that means using the morning for writing and then doing “water cooler” stuff AFTER that. And let me tell you how well it's working…um…ok, not so much yet. But it's a new process — and I can see that it'll take awhile for me to get used to-but it's going to work.

    The connections, either thru Twitter,FB or emails (or skype) are not exactly distractions…not in the way that Freecell is (grin) – but yet, yeah, they are when they keep me (like you mentioned) from finding the right word or finishing a post or chapter. And that happens a lot.
    I keep having to remind myself (in this new process) that were I at work “outside” I wouldn't be able to hang at the water cooler all day no matter how much brainstorming, networking, or inspiration I got out of it – I'd be there to accomplish something and I'd need to get to THAT first and could mix the water cooler stuff throughout the day (like lunch and break times at an “outside” job) but not let it eclipse the day…(if that makes sense)…

    And Dian, I “get” it about the writing by hand. The other day I got bored and nonproductive (and bitchy) at home, took my laptop to the library (and a notebook and pen as well) — started working on the computer, but stopped and wrote by hand and ohmyword – I'd forgotten – it's a good thing to shake things up sometimes — and I found that the editing was easier and quicker once I'd hand written…

    love your thoughts here!!

    Dian, is it possible that my comment is longer than your post that I'm commenting on??? lol…jeez

  • Dian, you were so right about me being able to relate to you on this – SO right!!

    I'm just starting to boundary myself with regards to writing – for me that means using the morning for writing and then doing “water cooler” stuff AFTER that. And let me tell you how well it's working…um…ok, not so much yet. But it's a new process — and I can see that it'll take awhile for me to get used to-but it's going to work.

    The connections, either thru Twitter,FB or emails (or skype) are not exactly distractions…not in the way that Freecell is (grin) – but yet, yeah, they are when they keep me (like you mentioned) from finding the right word or finishing a post or chapter. And that happens a lot.
    I keep having to remind myself (in this new process) that were I at work “outside” I wouldn't be able to hang at the water cooler all day no matter how much brainstorming, networking, or inspiration I got out of it – I'd be there to accomplish something and I'd need to get to THAT first and could mix the water cooler stuff throughout the day (like lunch and break times at an “outside” job) but not let it eclipse the day…(if that makes sense)…

    And Dian, I “get” it about the writing by hand. The other day I got bored and nonproductive (and bitchy) at home, took my laptop to the library (and a notebook and pen as well) — started working on the computer, but stopped and wrote by hand and ohmyword – I'd forgotten – it's a good thing to shake things up sometimes — and I found that the editing was easier and quicker once I'd hand written…

    love your thoughts here!!

    Dian, is it possible that my comment is longer than your post that I'm commenting on??? lol…jeez

  • Oh gosh Dian I completely relate! Computer is on all day. Firefox is up all day with many tabs open. I feel like a pigeon pecking at a feeder lever in a lab as I click the tabs back and forth between gmail, twitter, fb, and all the various videos and blogs to check. Not because I think I have to, but because I enjoy them.

    But…yesterday, I hiked in the morning – a good long one with the two dogs and met a friend for lunch and we walked the beach. I noticed while I was out how great I felt and how I did not miss the computer at all. In fact, I was having one heck of a good time without it.

    Then, I awoke this morning in an amazing state of bliss. Can't explain it really, just feeling great for no reason.

    After an hour or so online, wrestling with this ridiculously slow connection, rain pouring down outside, the bliss just sort of evaporated.

    Message is clear, and so is my “addiction.” I need a support group. But my support group is online – LOL

    trusting the change will come in time….something's gotta give!

  • First of all, I have to say that I love your writing style. Second, thank you for making this post. I related to it on so many levels:
    I want to continue to connect with the people I've met in the online community, but I cannot deny the fact that constantly checking these social mediums takes away from my productivity at some level.
    I want to product quality writing, rather than the keyboard vomit you referred to, but I can't deny the efficiency of posting something you've just typed out.
    So, how do I plan to effectively and efficiently create while still connecting with others?
    Well, aside from Fridays (that's my free-for-all day) I'm starting to check Twitter only every 3 hours during the work day. I rarely check Facebook at all during the work day since it seems to be easier for me to catch up on people's lives on there than catch up on the rapid pace of my friends Tweets.
    And, after reading your post, I'm going to set aside some time every week to journal. I was an avid journaler for 22 years–until I started blogging and in some ways I feel like I've sold out to the Internet…but like you said, I love the connections I've made.
    Ok. Now I'm rambling. Anyway- thank you for this post! I truly appreciated and enjoyed it.

  • “If I am smart, I write it down.” Oh yes! I have a journal to write such smart things down…if only I didn't distract myself on the way to getting it or the pen…
    And another good point…that inspiration can be derived through daily distractions…these distractions are not wholly bad. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Yes, the writing by hand…I MUST continue this. It has brought tears to my eyes multiple times this week, and that, my friend, is just the connection (and emotional release) I need.

  • and something always gives, doesn't it, kathy?! there should be some sort of firefox addon that can limit the number of times i pull up facebook or twitter per day…maybe then i'd use my distractions wisely….

  • Thanks, Jennifer, for commenting =). I think there must be a happy medium between the quality of pen-in-hand writing and the efficiency of selling out to the Internet….I'll let you know when I find it…

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