Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I need some focus.

If I could hold them in my hand, I'd make them understand
I'm not a haunted mind
I'm not a thoughtless kind
--Late at Night, Buffalo Tom
It's the last day of my vacation, and I am trying to focus.  
I have a cup of coffee, a bottle of diet coke, a sweating glass of unsweetened tea, and some LaCroix coconut sparkling water to accommodate any and all beverage desires.  I have snacks, ranging from the salty to the sweet.  The bathroom is just around the corner, with its pristine and inviting cushioned toilet seat.  I will need it soon.
Supper’s in the crock pot and the water logged meat needs no attention for another three hours.  Kids are at day care.  Hubs is killing insects out at the farm.
Yet I stare at my manuscript, mind blank except for a nagging voice that tells me I should go clean out my underwear drawer, because that may help me fill this plot hole.  As sick as it sounds, cleaning and organizing things is my guilty procrastinating pleasure.  There's nothing like alphabetized CDs and a color coded closet to soothe my aching prefrontal cortex.

Perhaps my home needs feng shuied?  The flow of creative energy is stifled, I know it.  I should shampoo the carpets; move the couch.  Damn, these seaweed snacks are surprisingly tasty.  If I do Kegels, will that increase the duration of "pee-free" periods?


In my daytime job, I am involved in the quality improvement drive in healthcare.  One thing that comes up over and over with medical errors is the tendency of humans to become so absorbed in a task that they miss other vital issues happening simultaneously.  They call it selective attention--and this is a little video to exemplify it:

So that makes me think. . .
Maybe I'm being too focused on being focused.  Or I need to feed my muse some bananas.
What do you do when you need to focus?


  1. When I need to focus, I make a cuppa tea. Darjeeling with a little milk and one sugar. I have to have total silence and stop thinking. Thinking can block the creative flow for me, so I have to tell myself to STOP THINKING! I usually have to shout at myself. Wierd I know, but it works for me.

  2. I play my guitar to focus.
    And crap, thanks for reminding me - I think my CDs are out of order as well.

  3. Sometimes when I can't focus, it's because I'm procrastinating - in which case, I just have to force myself to get on with it. Other times, it's because I'm tired or something and maybe - like you said - focusing too hard. So I take a break. I shower or watch TV for a bit, and when I'm refreshed, I come back and try again.

    At least your procrastination results in your house looking good, right? :) Good luck!

  4. We order the environment to feel like we've gotta handle on the helter skelter within. Ain't nothin' wrong with that!

  5. You don't need to force yourself to focus because that equals even more stress. Enjoy your coffee and relax for a bit. :)

  6. Ha, I saw the gorilla but had no idea what he did. I actually stay up too late waiting until focus arrives and I can complete a task. Which is fine until the alarm goes off a few hours later.

  7. Sometimes I'll focus on something too deeply it gets boring. It helps creativity if you just go for a walk. I don't about you but I do not enjoy housework. Taking a shower usually works for me though. :)

  8. I think your on to something about being too focused. My best ideas always come when I'm not thinking about writing at all.

  9. I did see him! But I totally get about being too focused. I find I need to really unfocus to find unique plot twists. I don't know why.

  10. I run to get focused. Today was a rest day and I can't seem to get motivated. I have plenty of writing to do, and yet, I just stare blankly at the screen.

    Like you, housework is my preferred procrastination technique, as is blogging :)

  11. Exercise is good for focusing, playing music or closing your eyes and seeing the process of what you want to obtain. :)

  12. YONKS--tea cures everything as far as I'm concerned. It's as close to ambrosia as mere humans get

    Alex--I have a guitar, bought during a musical whim I had. It holds clothes for me quite stylishly. I had no idea you could play one of them! Intriguing.

    Krispy--that is totally how I justify it. I may never be a literary success, but damn, I have sparkling windows.

    Suze--true, I can't seem to focus when things are cluttered. It's an added layer of chaos I can't contend with.

    Alleged--you're right, if it's not coming, it only can mean bad things to force it. Like trying to squeeze out mustard from a blocked container. When you're wearing a white shirt.

    Slamdunk--some of my best stuff comes in the wee hours of the morning. I think the partial delirium of fatigue helps.

    Laila--I'm wet and pruny now, but still not focused. Should have loofahed harder, I guess.

    Angela--I think the best ideas come when you're not trying, too. And wine also helps.

    Carol--Sometimes when I try hard to write, I find it comes off wooden and heavy handed. When I'm just daydreaming, sometimes not even looking at what I'm typing, that is when I get stuff that is different.

    Brianna--I'm a runner too! Helps to burn off that excess anxious energy for me. And it's cheaper than therapy.

    Aleta--I envy musicians--I can pick out a few simple tunes on my piano (and I used to play a mean clarinet in high school marching band) but I don't have that talent to get lost in my own playing ability. Although I listen to just about anything out there. Sometimes I'll use certain songs to inspire me--Cosmic Love was a recent one I got a ton of ideas from.

  13. I read a story from a guy who took a two months off of his job to write a novel. This was a guy who had written several already, but he felt like work was a distraction that kept him from really putting his absolute best effort into it.

    So, he said at the end of the two months that there was absolutely nothing left to do to his house. He'd cleaned the gutters, caulked the window seals, repainted the bathrooms. Whatever it was, he did it. He ended up running out of time and not getting his stuff done like he wanted.

    The lesson he took away is that we seem to organize our time better when we have lots of things competing for it. I think most of us do things like that when it comes down to it.

    I was spoiled before I ever watched that video. I can't recall where I saw it first, but when I did someone let the cat out of the bag and I was aware of what was coming. I wish I could have seen it without that.

    Same thing happened when I was waiting in line to see the Sixth Sense. No joke, some loser shouted it out right as I was buying tickets.

  14. I'm with Slamdunk in that I focus best late at night when I get my second wind. I did see the gorilla, but lost track of the ball early on. Should I be very worried?! Julie

  15. Holy crap! I did NOT see the Gorilla! OMG.

  16. Hey girl, make my life easier and put a "Tweet this" widget on your posts!

  17. What an interesting video! I'm embarrassed to say I totally missed the gorilla.

    I struggle with trying to focus too. I didn't realize how bad it was until last semester when I was trying to study. It was my first semester of college and I wanted to do well so I felt like I needed to be studying all the time. During finals, I kept trying to study everything at once. Finally, I realized it would be a lot easier, for me anyways, to just focus on one subject and take the test. Once that was done, move on to the next one and only study that and so on. Not sure how I'll do it this semester and that makes me nervous, wondering how I'll manage with an extra class and a job thrown in.

    Thanks for following, I'm returning the favor!

  18. I'd go for a walk, hike, or a drive. Those always feeds my muse. :) Good luck!

  19. To go outside, into nature!! I helps me refocus and even gain some inspiration when I need it!

    Love your blog and I noticed you live in close to me. How awesome! Following and will be back soon!!! Have a Wonderful Friday!

  20. Rusty--If I have two hours to do 2 things one day, and two hours to do 20 things the next, I will use the full allotment of time both days. I agree with adjust our productivity to the constraints we set upon ourselves. What an evil spoiler sadist! No one should be spoiled unless the want to be!

    Empty Nest--Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, wouldn't it be more important to see a rogue gorilla in the midst of a bunch of basketball players? I think you defeated their test.

    Lydia--your wish is my command. Assuming I can figure out how to widgetize myself.

    Sprinkles--I think that's half my problem--too many irons in the fire and so nothing gets done. I need to prioritize. Or clone myself.

    Ciara--I will be so thrilled when this heat wave is over so that I can take an evening walk again to clear my head.

    Velvet--Awesome you live close--so glad you stopped by! Midwestern gals need to stick together; who else understands the beauty of a corn field?

  21. I think doing mindless activities actually helps me focus. I can't tell you how many plot holes I've filled sorting laundry :) Good Luck.

  22. I hope you wrote after your blog post.

    I try to give myself permission to carve in writing time. Up until a year ago, I felt guilty, thought of laundry, and found reasons to psyche myself out. Now, I try to treasure the time.

    Good luck returning to work.

  23. Great post, Julie. I'd seen the gorilla thing some time ago, and had forgotten about it. (Thing=film clip) Sheesh.

    When I need to focus? A self-imposed exile, of sorts. The door to the office is shut, I have all the drinks and snacks I need, family is instructed "hands off," and out come my favorite writing tunes. No more Bryce for at least two hours.


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