I’m very easily distracted nowadays. There was once a time when I had incredible focus, but that only lasted through junior high or so. Maybe puberty was the beginning of the end for my concentration. It became more and more difficult to study, until I finally realized that I needed a minimal amount of stimulation from my environment if I were ever going to get my homework done. I could even distract myself at times, hammering out a beat on my notebook with a pencil even though the music was only in my mind.
It’s even worse as an adult. That’s why it’s so hard for me to get writing done, even when I have some down time to do it. It’s like there’s always something pulling at my attention, but it’s especially bad if there’s any noise around at all. I have to sequester myself somewhere completely quiet if I want to be truly productive. Home is sometimes the worst because my house is small, and there’s nearly always noise of some kind: TV, stereo,child, pets, traffic, etc. A lot of the noises come from happiness, and I certainly don’t want to hush them. Even so, I’ve got to write. It’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. I decided that I could get more writing done on my lunch breaks at work and leave things like typing. blogging and research for the evenings at home.
My writing place of choice during lunch was always the break room. Normally this might seem odd, but it was usually empty whenever I would go. There were a succession of snack bar managers that just couldn’t seem to make things work. The food was pretty bad, the staff were unfriendly and the tables were always sticky. Most people avoided the place except to buy soda from the vending machines. It was perfect. I would head there a little late to avoid the few customers, and then I would have the place to myself.
The new management is great. The food is excellent, the staff are customer service pros and the place is so clean that it’s like someplace you would want to eat. There’s upbeat pop music on the radio in the kitchen and always jovial conversation among the numerous customers. There’s even a new TV blaring from its wall mount, with no remote control or visible volume buttons in sight. For me, I might as well be in an airport terminal.
Some days I just give up and try to catch up on emails on my phone instead of writing. It’s disheartening to sit over a blank page for 30 or 40 minutes, knowing I will have to wait a full day to see if conditions are more conducive to writing. There’s a break room in an adjacent building where I once spent my whole break alone. I wrote the whole time, grinning like a lunatic. I told myself it was a new beginning, a dawn of productivity and creative release. The next day at the same time, the place was full. I didn’t even go inside, just turned around and went back to sit in front of the TV.
Every once in a while, when my inspiration is peaked, I can scratch out a couple of pages despite the distractions. The language is usually pretty plain and uninspired, as I just try to address the major plot points before I forget something. Occasional song lyrics get through from the radio, and I try to drive them out with more furious scribbling. The tired soap opera intrigue on the TV sometimes generates unwanted questions in my mind. Will Jessica and Peter ever get back together? Which of the children will receive Victor’s inheritance? I don’t care enough to pay attention on purpose. It’s not like I’m watching it. It’s just a struggle to tune the actors out and concentrate.
Lately I’ve been sitting in my car to write. It’s often warmer than the cube farm where I work, where for some reason the A/C blasts during winter. Noises are muffled through the window and door seals. It smells lemony, like the cough drop that has melted and stuck to the bottom of my cup holder. Eventually it will get too hot to sit there in the afternoon, but maybe I can drive around the block to find a shady spot. I have a feeling it’s going to be the place where I can be the most productive.
I think next week, I’ll try something new. Instead of trying to concentrate in the break room, I’ll let all of the noise, TV dialogue and song lyrics pour into my head. Then I’ll just starting writing a stream of consciousness, going wherever the distractions take me. It might be fun to see what comes out of the experience. Jessica, Peter…I just know you kids are going to make it.