Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finessing Distraction

Distraction: It's a multifaceted foe that every artist battles every day. There are the distractions we probably should ignore like TV and web surfing, ones we might want to ignore like housework and overtime, and those we shouldn't ignore like friends and family. I, in no way, suggest cutting any of these things out of your life if you aim to be a serious writer (painter, musician, etc...) but there are ways to turn these things from elements of distraction to sources of inspiration.

 First, a disclaimer: I am a married 28 year old with no children, so I can't begin to grasp how draining (wonderful, I'm sure, but draining nevertheless) children are. I do work a full time job in the molecular diagnostics industry, so I can definitely relate with the day-job-drain. After a rough day at work, it's so easy to let the couch swallow your aching bones and sacrifice your brain to reruns and reality tv. Sometimes you need to give in to those distractions, but if you do, take it as an opportunity. Don't just switch off your mind. Every person you see is a potential character, or at least possesses attributes to be used in developing a character.

Say Facebook is your demon of distraction: Watch how people interact. See how honest they are just because no one sees more than a name and a picture of them downing a bootful of beer. They say there are only a handful of original story ideas, but we haven't come close to nailing the different types of personalities in the world. From people who are genuinely nice and caring to the “keepin' it real” crowd that declares nice people “fake”. There are even people who are so depraved, they make pro-lifers wish the loony's mother had made a different decision. The personalities are endless.

When an inky cohort tells me they were unable to concentrate on writing because they were in a room full of people, I'm a little awestruck. Maybe you can't write, but you can definitely observe. To me, observation is essential to writing. When you're in public, you're in a veritable melting pot of personalities. All the visible quirks, all of the hidden quirks. What brought those people there? Where will they go after? Why is that man sitting so far from his wife? Why is his wife staring so intently at the waiter? These are the stories that wait in the wings, the characters that wait to be constructed.

In summation:

Questions are as limitless as distractions.
Answers are as plentiful as inspiration.



  1. My boys are grown, so my distractions are 2 furry 4 legged sweethearts who think that the minute I set down at the computer they need attention. You blog today is actually a good reminder to us to look at things in a different way and use the distractions to our advantage. I read a help blog a few weeks back and he was saying no matter what you are doing, describe every little detail, thought, and feeling about what you are doing. He used the example of washing dishes. Great blog today! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I can definitely sympathize with having distracting furry children!! :)
    I'm so glad you found the post interesting. I know if I was describing washing dishes in detail, I'd be using a lot of 4-letter words. ;)

  3. Great post, Jessica!

    I have to try to be more of an observer. I know there is a wealth of ideas for characters out there, and I was actually doing that for a while...being an observer. Somehow, I forgot.

    Thanks for the reminder!!

    Sharon :)
    ps. So glad to see you're doing a blog. I know I will enjoy all of your posts! ♥